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,N THIS BOOK, fifty-fivfe outstanding 
actors and actresses of our time are 
given an opportunity to play them- 
selves. Appearing in a vast drama ar- 
ranged for them by the authors, Lillian 
Ross and Helen Ross, they make their 
separate entrances and speak lines that 
reveal who they are, how they became 
what they are, what they think about 
themselves and their work, and how 
they go about creating the theatrical 
illusion that helps sustain the rest of 
us mortals. Employing a literary form 
they devised for the purpose, the au- 
thors let these fifty-five people tell their 
own stories, and, seeing actors as artists 
whose medium is nothing more and 

(Continued on back flap) 



7 7 





Lillian noss ana rlelen Ross 


a Profile of an Art 










NEW YORK 20, N.Y. 

Twenty-one of these pieces originally appeared in 
The New Yorker Magazine 


All the photographs in "The Player" were taken by Lillian 
Ross, with the exception of those of Eileen Heckart and Lee 
Remick, which were taken by Eli Wallach; and those of Joan 
Crawford and Michael Redgrave, which appear by courtesy 
of Miss Crawford and Mr. Redgrave. 




INDEX 439 


All the pieces in this book, while cast in autobi- 
ographical form, are based on interviews. The inter- 
views, which took place between 1958 and 1962, were 
conducted informally and in the traditional manner; 
they were not tape-recorded. The authors talked with 
more than a hundred actors and actresses, and al- 
though, for various technical reasons, only fifty-five of 
them could be directly represented here, the others 
indirectly contributed a great deal of background, and 
the authors are grateful to them for their time and 
help. Among the fifty-five whose stories are told in this 
book so assembled, it is hoped, as to make an 
aesthetic whole, and thus give a balanced and defini- 
tive picture of the art of acting are some of the most 
eminent and most talented and most devoted people 
in the theatre, but the authors are very well aware 
that another fifty-five, equally eminent and talented 
and devoted, could be gathered together to the same 
purpose. If time and chance and the mechanics of 
book production had permitted, they would have 
been included, but since that was not possible, the 
authors wish to dedicate their book to all actors and 
actresses, outside as well as within these pages. 

L. R. AND H. R. 


Unlike other artists, the actor has only his own body 
and his own self to work with. To exhibit oneself on 
the stage is quite a brave and wonderful thing to do. 

I was born on February 11, 1925, in Tularosa, New Mexico. My par- 
ents were divorced when I was three. My father, J. T. Reid, is part 
Irish and part Cherokee Indian, and he married my mother, a German- 
English girl named Ann Miller, when she was sixteen. He's a retired 
professor of philosophy and education, and he now teaches a fishing 
class at the University of New Mexico, and writes about fishing and 
hunting. My mother paints as a hobby, and lives in Greenwich Village. 
I took my maternal grandmother's maiden name. My family were 
farm people on both sides. I had three older brothers: Howard, now 


a psychiatrist in Milwaukee; Justin, a lawyer who recently gave up 
his practice to write, and who lives in New City, New York; and Ken- 
neth, who was killed in the Second World War. My mother was an in- 
terior decorator, and moved us from one part of the Southwest to an- 
other. 1 felt lonely as a child; I dreaded the feeling of coming home to 
an empty apartment after school. I was a skinny kid. My mother likes 
to say that I inherited acting talent from my father, because he did 
some professional singing to work his way through college. Actually, 
nobody in the family was in acting. My first experience with it came 
when I was in the third grade, in Albuquerque, where my teacher, 
Violet C. Moore, took an interest in me. We still correspond occa- 
sionally. She took me home with her, gave me cookies and milk, and 
was very good to me. She is a lovely, warm, kind lady. She got me to 
act in a school play called "New Mown Hay." It was all about new- 
mown hay and a young man haying, and I was the ten-year-old ingenue 
in it. I can clearly remember the experience, doing something up there 
on the stage, and getting a feeling that was powerful and special, un- 
like anything else I had ever felt. I went to three high schools first 
in San Antonio, then in Albuquerque, and, for my senior year, in 
Taos, where my father was working for his Ph.D. on a plan for adult 
education among underprivileged Indians. I spent that whole year 
with him, and I was one of three non-Mexican pupils in the school. 
I wrote a lot of poetry in my teens, and fluctuated between a desire 
to be an artist or a poet and a desire to be popular and be things like 
the May Queen. Ever since I was fifteen, I have painted and drawn 
mostly charcoals and water colors, mostly of people. My husband, 
Alfred Ryder, an actor and director, is a wonderful sketcher. 

I did my first real acting in 1942, when I was a sophomore 
at the University of New Mexico. I played the part of the young girl 
in "Thunder Rock." There was something about that character that 
I really responded to. I played a young, sort of selfish Viennese girl, 
who was, like all the other characters in the play, dead* At the time, 
I thought she was terribly poetic, because when you're seventeen it is 
poetic to be dead. I really felt I was not myself but this girl, and that 
hooked me. It meant escape from my own life then. Later on, of 
course, I learned that that isn't what the theatre is all about. Al- 
though I did really feel something about this girl I played, I wasn't 
thinking seriously about acting as a career. I had a Hard-Shell Baptist 



family background, for one thing. I went to a lot of movies in those 
days, and was a big fan of Bette Davis which I still am but I never 
considered myself pretty enough to be a movie actress. I saw Laurence 
Olivier and Merle Oberon in "Wuthering Heights" about twenty-five 
times. I just loved it. I went to see it again recently, and had exactly 
the same experience I had the first time. My father always thought 
acting was very silly, and I wanted his approval. To him, acting was 
not a serious occupation. I think he still regards fishing as more im- 
portant. My mother was the only one who encouraged me to think 
about acting. I didn't see a professional play until I was in my teens, 
when "The Philadelphia Story," with Katharine Hepburn, came 
to San Antonio. I was overcome. I was transfixed. The impact of 
Katharine Hepburn's personality was fantastic. It was a comedy, but 
after the curtain came down I sat there and cried, because I wanted 
it to go on all night. 

I got a B.A. in psychology at the University of Texas in 1945. I had 
intended at first to go on with my studies in psychology and to 
study medicine, but I had no enthusiasm for that. Besides, the 
director of the Pasadena Playhouse had seen me act in college, and 
offered me a scholarship. So I went to Pasadena, even though everyone 
in the family except my mother was against it. Pasadena turned out 
to be like a glorified junior college, and I quit after one year. I felt 
I was ready to take on life in a less diluted form. My experience in 
"Thunder Rock" had apparently released something in me, and I 
seemed to want to develop it. I had a friend working with a stock 
company in Louisville, Kentucky, who had also quit Pasadena. She 
wrote me that they needed a walk-on, so I went there and did a season 
of winter stock, at the Equity minimum of fifty-seven-fifty a week. I 
played mostly walk-on parts, although I had a couple of lines as a 
manicurist in "Boy Meets Girl." After four months there, I took a 
Greyhound bus to New York. 

When I arrived in New York, in the spring of 1947, I had twenty- 
one dollars. It was raining. I got off at the Thirty-fourth Street station, 
and took the first room I saw in a rooming house in the West 
Thirties. I didn't know one single person in the city. I still had a 
heavy Texas accent, although I had been working to get rid of it. 
Stanley Walker, who was a cousin of my mother's, had given me a 
list of names of theatre people to see about a job. I saw them, and 



they all told me to go back to Texas. But by then I had made up 
my mind that I was going to be an actress. I had no fear at all. I 
knew I was Duse. In a short period of time, everything had crystallized. 
I stayed in that first rooming house, in a room with a bedbug-ridden 
bed, for a month and a half; I slept on the floor. Then I got a job in 
summer stock at Pompton Lakes. I played the ingenue in "Kiss and 
Tell" and leading roles in other plays, which were presented in the 
local high-school auditorium. But after playing the lead in "The 
Pursuit of Happiness" I got fired. It didn't make me feel that I 
couldn't act, but it came as a terrible blow. In those days, however, 
I was more sure of myself than I am now. It was the only time in my 
life that I was able to get myself to make the rounds of offices of 
producers and casting agents. Making the rounds is like trying to sell 
yourself, as if you were something on the hoof. I'd never be able to 
do that again. You couldn't get an agent unless you were known or 
were fantastically beautiful. I would get paralyzed, once in an office, 
and would be unable to remember the name of the play I was trying to 
get a job in. I hated the whole procedure. It was humiliating. They'd 
ask me what I had done on Broadway, and I couldn't speak. Emotion- 
ally, I couldn't take it. My hands would start sweating. I would feel 
like a cipher. Nothing was worth that. After about six months, I de- 
cided to get a job outside the theatre and save enough money to work 
in the Off Broadway theatre. I answered a newspaper ad for models to 
work in the dress house of Herbert Sonclheim, whose son Stephen later 
wrote the lyrics for "West Side Story/' I was hired as an outdoor-girl- 
type model four showings a clay for fifty-six dollars a week. It was 
deadly work. After about a year, I got married to the actor Bruce Hall. 
We lived in a cold-water flat at Third Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, 
and we devoted all our spare time to readings at home with other ac- 
tors. I read Juliet, Ophelia, and everything. Then I thought I'd save 
more money if I gave up modelling and got a job as a waitress, and I 
went to work in the cocktail lounge of the old Sheraton Hotel. In a 
good week, I'd make about ninety dollars in tips. I wore high-heeled 
shoes and a transparent skirt, and ads for the lounge would show a 
picture of me with the heading "I'm at the Sheraton Lounge, Where 
are you?" Bruce, in the meantime, got a job in Maxwell Anderson's 
"Joan of Lorraine," playing the part of one of Joan's brothers. I got to 
meet Ingrid Bergman, who played Joan. It wasS a very exciting time. 



Then I read a want ad tor models to tour Southern towns, modelling 
Balenciaga, Fath, and other designers, at a salary of eighty-five dollars a 
week, plus expenses. 1 did that for six months, and got home with two 
thousand dollars. 

Back in New York, I knew I couldn't make the rounds any more, so 
I started going to the various Off Broadway groups to see if they 
would give me any little thing to do. I joined the Interplayers at the 
Provincetown Theatre, and they let me make and serve the lemonade 
at intermission but didn't let me act. My husband and I decided to 
separate, and I got an apartment in the Village. All the while, some- 
thing was working in me, pushing me to be an actress, and it wouldn't 
let me alone. Michael Vincente Gazzo and Gene Saks were at the 
Provincetown, and the next year we formed our own company Off 
Broadway, Inc. and rented the Cherry Lane Theatre for our head- 
quarters. Mike taught acting. It was my first, brush with the so-called 
Method. The word "Method" has been so abused that it's lost its 
meaning. At the Actors' Studio itself, which is generally thought of as 
the home of the Method, it's referred to now as "the so-called Method." 
It was a real eye-opener to me. Mike was an exciting teacher. New 
things began happening to me as I attended the various classes in 
speech, dance, and acting. In the classroom exercises, I found myself 
doing things I hadn't known had anything to do with acting. I hadn't 
known that this was the way to get at those acting things, to use them 
in your work. There are times during your life when you suddenly 
have insight, and this was one of those times for me. I began to under- 
stand why I didn't like some of the acting I had seen, or why I missed 
something onstage even when I might like what I was seeing very 
much. In June, 1949, I appeared at the Cherry Lane in Gertrude 
Stein's "Yes Is for a Very Young Man," with Anthony Franciosa. 
We got very good reviews, and the agents began calling. 

I was having a wonderful time doing plays that I didn't understand 
but that were very provocative. All kinds of new things were opening 
up for me. Like a new play by Robert Hivnor, called "Too Many 
Thumbs," which featured an ape turned man turned saint, who com- 
mits suicide. I played the ape's girl friend. Then I played the lead 
in "Saint Joan" at the Equity Library Theatre, and I really began 
to feel how much I had to study. There were so many problems in 
the play I couldn't solve. I didn't have the technique. In 1950, after 



making my Broadway debut in "Montserrat" in November, 1949, re- 
placing Julie Harris as Felisa, I went to the Actors' Studio for an audi- 
tion and was accepted. After that, I was in the Broadway produc- 
tion of Lorca's "The House of Bernarda Alba," in which I had a 
beautiful part the young daughter, Adela and played with Katina 
Paxinou. It was a lovely play. Late in 1952, I was asked to read for 
"Picnic" for the lead part of the older sister, I felt I couldn't play 
it. I had never been the prettiest girl in town. I wouldn't know how 
to play it. So I asked for the part of the kid sister, Millie Owens. I 
was told I was ten years too old, but I was determined to play the 
part. After I got it, I worked on it at the Actors' Studio with the 
Artistic Director of the Studio, Lee Strasberg. Strasberg is the greatest 
man in the theatre today a completely dedicated man. He's an actor 
and director and an artist in his own right. He made it possible for 
the whole world to open up for me. I'd feel, That's what I want, 
that's what I've always felt. It was like coming home. It can't be un- 
derstood by people who have never been to the Actors' Studio. The 
Studio is the place where you can learn under the most thoroughly 
trained eye. Wearing a leather jacket doesn't make you a Method 
actor, and Method actors do not mumble. The Method simply makes 
you as free as possible. I have a healthy respect for throwing one- 
self into a part, even with crudenesses, as against the polite, mecha- 
nized sort of thing. But I'm also a great admirer of Gielgud and 
Olivier, who are masters of their art, who know how to use the voice, 
who are experts at economy of movement. 

I had a number of bad habits as an actress when I first met Stras- 
berg. Like many actors, I mistook showing off for acting. He taught 
me the difference. Showing off mars a lot of good work. You shouldn't 
be busy showing how* cute you are in front of the audience instead 
of exploring the person you're playing. You shouldn't let the au- 
dience control your performance, so that if they giggle, you do some- 
thing else cute to get another giggle out of them. Being cute is not act- 
ing, and it's sad when a good actor falls into the being-cute trap. What I 
want to do on the stage is to express the playwright's meaning, to have 
an experience playing my part that expresses that meaning and illumi- 
nates it and lets the audience experience it, too. Whatever the actor 
calls it, that is, I think, what every good actor tries to do. It doesn't 
matter what kind of actor he says he is or whether he says he's Method 



or non-Method. I don't use the word "Method" if I can help it. The 
word doesn't matter. Whatever it is, it is there if you want to learn 
anything from it that might help you as an actor. It's a combination 
of things that help you do what you want to do in a part. Through 
his teaching, Strasberg gives you tools that make it possible for you 
to accomplish what you want to do. When you're playing a part 
and, say, the first scene begins to dry up, he may get you to think 
of something about the kind of day it is, the way the wind is blowing 
just anything to reexcite your imagination. You may do some 
little thing differently without changing it so much, however, 
that it throws the other actors. Each person Strasberg works with 
comes out a much broader, fuller, deeper person, because Strasberg 
is interested not in exploiting talent but in nurturing it and making 
it grow. He insists that I work on comedy, for instance, which I 
haven't done on Broadway since "Bus Stop." I'm usually cast in tragic 
things. By doing comedy I can avoid some of the pitfalls getting lost, 
copying myself. Talented people often try to copy themselves. One 
very famous actor, a leading star in movies who's been very success- 
ful in recent years, could have become the greatest actor of our time 
if he hadn't confined himself to making movies. They were superior 
movies but not enough for his talent to feed on. He acted superbly in 
the movies, but after a while he started imitating himself. He should 
have played "Hamlet" on the stage four years ago, instead of re- 
stricting himself to movies. No matter what you do in a film, it is, 
after all, bits and pieces for the director, and that's marvellous for the 
director but it doesn't allow the actor to learn to mold a part. In 
films, it's the director who is the artist. An actor has much more chance 
to create on the stage. I'm not an authority on movies. I've been in 
only one myself, "The Goddess," and it was a very bad one. It fell 
so short of what the real thing might have been. It more or less ex- 
ploited itself. And that always makes a potentially good movie much 
worse than simply a bad movie. I don't mean that actors shouldn't 
make movies or shouldn't make them in Hollywood, but I do think 
that Hollywood can't contain a really great talent, because even the 
best films are not enough to nurture that kind of talent. It's in the 
very nature of the medium waiting for lights and technicalities, 
starting and stopping your part for a take of only a minute or two 
that your sustained feeling gets cut off. Good film actors have to be 



fantastic magicians. A great actor must continue to act on the stage 
if he wants to keep his talent alive. That isn't to say that any great 
play is better than any great movie. We need both. All I mean is 
that when you stay only in movies say, for ten years your talent 
feeds on itself. But if you work on a part even a little part, in a 
Chekhov play, for example, there is somewhere for you to go because 
you're the one who is molding your part. 

When I first look at a script, my immediate responses and impulses 
are terribly helpful. I put down a lot of notes that make no sense 
to anybody but me. I don't study the script for character. I just read 
it. When I first read "A Far Country," the image of Freud's patient, 
Elizabeth, my part, came absolutely full-blown to me a many-faceted, 
hard jewel that cracks open. Then, when you start to rehearse, with 
other people, something begins to happen. What it is exactly I don't 
know, and don't even want to know. I'm all tor mystery there. Most 
of what happens as you develop your part is unconscious, most of 
it is underwater. Painting isn't the same kind of joy. Or cooking a 
good dinner, however marvellous that is. Or planting something in 
the ground and seeing it grow, which I love. No, in acting you get 
taken over by some force outside yourself. Something happens. And 
I do get affected in my real life by my parts. When I was playing 
Millie Owens in "Picnic," I always felt younger than my age. The 
only time I got really depressed by a part was when I played Blanche 
in "A Streetcar Named Desire," for eight weeks in Houston. By the 
end of that time, I was practically a basket case. At rehearsals, I wear 
the kind of clothes I wear in the part. It gives me a sensory feeling 
for the part. Wearing tight corsets and high heels while I was rehears- 
ing L6a in "Ch<ri" actually affected my emotions in the role. 
And I find my own painting and looking at paintings helpful 
Before we opened in "Ch&ri" in New York, I went to the Phillips 
Gallery, in Washington, and as I was standing there looking at the 
Renoir painting "Boating," I actually got feelings from it that I could 
use in my part the way those women lean on their hands, the 
physicalization of it, that lovely roundness that they have. Paintings 
can be a help if you're working on a part that doesn't belong to your 
own immediate background. Each age has its own texture. You then 
have to make it somehow your own. I consider my portrayal of L6a 
in "Ch&i" a failure, but I couldn't have gone on to play Elizabeth 



in "A Far Country" if it hadn't been for my experience in that 
part. Until I played La, most of my roles had been of the American 
genre. There had been nothing in my life to give me references to an 
aristocratic or upper-middle-class European style and milieu. I don't 
like to hear about actresses' doing extensive research for a part, but 
the fact is I did spend days and days in the New York Public Library 
working on the part of Elizabeth. I not only read Freud's writings 
about Elizabeth, I also looked at late-nineteenth-century Viennese 
prints that showed the physical constriction of women of the time, 
and studied the social context of the part. Also, because Elizabeth 
walks on crutches, I rehearsed on crutches. I was quite pleased when 
several Viennese members of the audience at "A Far Country" came 
backstage to congratulate me on what they said was my convincing 
portrayal of an upper-middle-class Viennese woman of that period. 

I have two children, Lisa and Jamie, by my second husband, the 
director and actor Curt Conway, and a third, Laurie, by my present 
husband. I find I can't go straight from my kids to a part. I am with 
them, at our home in Suffern, until five, and I get to the theatre an 
hour and a half before the play starts. I can sleep on a picket fence, 
and on matinee days I take a long nap between performances. I get 
up every morning at seven to have breakfast with the kids, and then, 
if I'm working, I go back to bed. After a long run, I still find new 
satisfaction and new experiences in a part, but I begin to count the 
number of performances left to go, because I'm so anxious to be 
alone with my children. I try never to stay in a play longer than nine 
months the length of time I played in both "Bus Stop" and "Picnic." 
After nine months, it begins to sound like a tape recorder at least 
to me. By the time I reached my eighth month in "A Far Country," 
it was extremely hard work to keep it fresh and creative, and not 
sound as though I were calling in from Chicago. I don't see how some 
people can stay year after year in the same play. I'd go absolutely 
around the bend. To keep it fresh, I try to begin all over again in 
each performance, and I try to look at my character with new eyes. 
It's no fun to act the other way. I feel lousy afterward if it's just blah- 
blah-blah and I experience nothing. There are enough of those per- 
formances accidentally. Very long runs are good for producers but 
bad for actors. What originally drove me into acting, perhaps, was 
that I wanted to get away from home, and wanted to get into some- 



thing my three brothers couldn't compete with me in. It's changed 
now. I would like to be able to spend more time with my husband 
and my children. And the pleasure of acting no longer has to do with 
the business of Just Look at Me. The pleasure now lies in the actual 
work. It's fascinating to show what the life of another person is like, 
when you have only yourself to draw on. 



I do not regard the theatre as a place for literature; it 
is for the art of acting. 

I was born on February 19, 1893, in Lye, Stourbridge, Worcestershire, 
which is ten miles from Birmingham. I'm the eldest of three children; 
the others, both girls, are married and lead conventional middle-class 
lives, one in Ireland and the other, a widow, in Canada. My father 
was a physician, and wanted me to study medicine. At the age of twelve 
months, I won first prize a guinea in a beauty contest sponsored by 
a paper called The Baby. At four, I was taken to a Wild West Show, 
and I immediately afterward set about putting on my own version of 
it, with one of my sisters as a bareback rider on a donkey. I wanted to 
be an actor from the time I was ten. I never wanted to do anything 
else. I was fascinated by acting. I'm the only actor I know who never 
wanted to do anything else. Acting is a wonderful profession, if it is 
properly pursued. It's far more enjoyable pretending to be a doctor 
than actually being one. I attended day school at Stourbridge, a couple 
of miles from home. I had a makeup box at home, and after school I'd 
constantly experiment with various kinds of disguises. I used to lead 
excursions of my classmates to the Prince of Wales's and the Theatre 
Royal in Birmingham and to the Alhambra in Stourbridge, the last 
wooden theatre in England, where I saw such classics as "East Lynne," 




"The Fatal Wedding," and "The Grip of Iron." To get me away from 
the Alhambra, my father sent me to a small boarding school, Bridg- 
north School, in Shropshire. I was a strong student in English, history, 
and geography, and a shockingly weak one in mathematics. My parents 
liked the theatre and opera, and took me to see some of the great ac- 
tors of the time, including Duse, Bernhardt, Coquelin, Ellen Terry, 
and Lucien Guitry, father of Sacha. I was seven or eight when I saw 
Coquelin as Cyrano, but I never forgot his impressive performance 
and his power of suggestion. Coquelin at that time used a long false 
nose in the first act of the play, a shorter nose in Act Two, and no 
false nose at all in Act Three, and nobody including me ever 
noticed it. The elder Guitry still seems to me in many ways the most 
magnificent actor I've ever seen. He was tremendously economical in 
his use of gesture, and when he raised his hand you would shudder. 
One barely perceptible gesture, and a thrill would go through the 
audience. All the great actors then had the same thing that great 
actors have today the power to rivet your attention on them. How- 
ever, many actors of the past were real spellbinders. John Barrymore 
was the last of them. They couldn't fit into the theatre today. Life was 
thundering away for them, not going off in little pops. If Henry 
Irving and Edmund Kean were alive today, they would probably be 
in business as executives or tycoons. The theatre wouldn't be big 
enough to hold them. Laurence Olivier and John Gielgucl are the last 
of the great romantic actors. But even they are mild compared to the 
great actors of the past. You hear actors today being described as great 
actors, but they are not great actors until they are tested in a great 
part, like Macbeth or Hamlet a part that challenges greatness, that 
demands a tremendous range and ability to express the great emotions. 
The misfortune of the theatre today is that it is denied its master- 
pieces. Producers don't find commercial success in "Hamlet." The 
great parts as they were played by the great actors called for a suspen- 
sion of disbelief. They destroyed one's critical faculties. Of course, it's 
entirely possible that in the old days acting by candlelight permitted 
the actor to get away with more than when he acted by gaslight, when 
the audience could see more of what was going on on the stage, What 
is known as the ham actor was discouraged by gaslight. Long before 
my time, there was no way to dim the candles in the house, and the 
audience sat in a lighted auditorium during the play. These days, the 



theatre is dark and the light is fully on the actors. The audience does 
not have to work so hard to see the actors. The microphone has ruined 
the ears of the audience and made lazy listeners of them. All this has 
had its effect on acting. When I started acting, it was behind gas foot- 
lights. I remember the intense heat they gave off, and I remember how 
different acting in electric light felt at first. Fortunately, I was young 
enough to be plastic in the face of the change. 

At twelve, I was organizing Shakespearean productions in the 
kitchen of our home, where I played Antonio in "The Merchant of 
Venice." At fourteen, I first played Hamlet, with a forty-three-year-old 
friend of my mother's playing Ophelia. My father regarded my theatri- 
cal ambitions with alarm. In England, actors were and still are classed 
as rogues and vagabonds. Bernard Shaw fought as nobody else did for 
recognition of the actor as an intelligent member of the community. 
Henry Irving was the first actor to be knighted that was in 1895 and 
since then the actor has had to be given some recognition. Once I had 
definitely decided to beowe a professional actor, my father wanted me 
to have the best available training. So I went to the Academy of 
Dramatic Art, originally known as Tree's Academy, which had been 
founded by Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Roland Young and Carlotta 
Monterey, who later married Eugene O'Neill, were a couple of my 
classmates. I got very impatient with the Academy. It didn't take me 
long to learn that you can't really learn to act; you've got to get out 
and do it. Like most successful actors, I was atrocious as a young ac- 
tor. Most good actors start by being very bad ones. I remember Olivier 
as a young actor. He was very noisy. He had no trace of subtlety. He 
shouted every part. Yet I knew instinctively he'd be a great actor. I was 
unorthodox, and had I been unorthodox in a manner that arrested 
attention, it might not have been so bad, but I could hardly be com- 
pared to any other living thing on earth. I fancied myself as an actor of 
character parts. All this sort of thing the determination to be dif- 
ferent is good in a young actor. But what I liked in myself I did 
badly. One of the first lessons I learned was the tremendous sense of 
discipline one needs in acting in order to share one's experience with 
an audience. Today, so many young actors don't want to share any- 
thing with the audience, although sometimes I think that the inartic- 
ulate actor of today is perhaps the most merciful one. In the beginning, 
I never felt I had any personality of my own. I was happy only when I 



transformed myself with putty noses, moles, and all sorts of things I'd 
stick on. Then, as I began to work, the nonsense was beaten out of 
me. Development is something you're unaware of. Gradually, you dis- 
card the young rubbish, the overacting, the exaggeration anything 
that diverts the attention of the audience from the important to the 
unimportant. Acting is a profession with no rules. But the actor must 
be creative, or else he's no good. It's an interpretive art, but only when 
it ceases to be simply interpretive and becomes creative is it any good. 
I got on the stage in my first professional role in 1912, in London's 
West End; it was a walk-on part as a gentleman of the court in "The 
Monk and the Woman." My first speaking part was in "Find the Wo- 
man," doubling as a hotel lift operator and a butler, replacing my 
friend Roland Young, who was going to America. I had little to do in 
the play, but I was never bored. I'd stand in the wings, night after 
night, watching the other players Arthur Bourchier, Violet Van- 
brugh, A. E. Matthews, and James Carew, who had married Ellen 
Terry. Seventeen years later, I played with Carew again, in Shaw's 
"The Apple Cart." In 1913, I joined a touring company called the 
Benson North Company and toured South Africa and Rhodesia, and 
when I returned to London the next year, I played small parts in 
Shakespearean productions with the recently launched Old Vic Shake- 
speare Company, with Sybil Thorndike and William Stack and Estelle 
Stead. Then I enrolled for officers' training in the Army. I started with 
the infantry and was switched to the cavalry, and then to the Royal 
Army Service Corps Horse Transport. I landed in France in January, 
1916. I saw front-line action, and about half a dozen times during the 
next few years I organized concert parties for the troops in France. I 
was discharged from the Army in the fall of 1921, and while I was spend- 
ing some time at home, I joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 
in nearby Birmingham, I returned to the stage to find the theatre 
changed. The cardboard theatre was gone* The play of ideas had come 
along to stay. Bernard Shaw, almost singlehandecl, destroyed the old 
romantic theatre with his plays. Shaw taught me the social importance 
of the theatre. He dealt with the outstanding social and economic 
problems of the time. From him I learned that there is not much 
humor in truth but a hell of a lot of truth in humor. I came to know 
Shaw, and Shaw was a sort of godfather to me. After the war, the 
theatre was taken over by the playwrights, and away from the actors, 



and Shaw taught me the importance of the theatre critic, and the 
effect of the theatre on the times. It was the beginning of a long and 
marvellous friendship. While I was with the Birmingham Rep, I 
played many Shaw parts, including Captain Shotover in "Heartbreak 
House" and the He-Ancient in "Back to Methuselah," which was put 
on in London. It was my first leading role in London since I had 
started acting, twelve years earlier. Shaw directed the production not 
officially, but he came around about a week before the opening and 
took over the direction. I not only learned about theatre from Shaw; 
he gave me significant and extremely helpful advice. One thing he al- 
ways insisted on was that I not direct myself as an actor, because he 
believed you couldn't divide your attention. And early in 1950, when 
I was going to be in a charity performance of his "The Dark Lady 
of the Sonnets," Shaw wrote to me and said that I must positively not 
play the Beefeater that I must play the part of Shakespeare or noth- 
ing. He wrote me that Burbage did not play Bernardo or Marcellus in 
"Hamlet/' Anybody could play the Beefeater, he said, just as any- 
body could produce. He was against my taking on what he called 
"tuppenny-ha'penny jobs." 

The year 1925 was for me the beginning of over a quarter century of 
playing leading parts in many great and good plays "Caesar and 
Cleopatra," "Othello," "The Apple Cart," "The Barretts of Wim- 
pole Street." In 1936, I came to Broadway, where I've appeared in 
over thirty plays, including "Antigone," "Candida," and "Don Juan in 
Hell." I've acted in about a hundred movies, some of which were "The 
Winslow Boy," "Becky Sharp," "On Borrowed Time," "I Remember 
Mama," "The Moon Is Down," "The Ten Commandments," and 
"Around the World in Eighty Days." I've been married twice, and I 
have a son by each marriage; Edward, the elder, is an actor in London, 
and Michael, the younger, is at Menlo School, in Menlo Park, Califor- 
nia. While I was playing a Japanese businessman in the play "A Major- 
ity of One," I began writing my autobiography, which I wanted to call 
"Fifty Years Without Being Found Out." It was published as "A Vic- 
torian in Orbit." Lately, I've very much enjoyed acting in "The 
Gertrude Berg Show," on television. I'd say that the two big influences 
on me have been Bernard Shaw and Gertrude Berg. 

I've reached an age where I feel I don't have to prove I can act. If I 
haven't proved it by now, I never will. Every actor goes through 



periods when he has to earn a living in a routine way. Your greatest 
reward comes when you do exactly what you enjoy most. My greatest 
reward came when I was able to do the role of the Statue in "Don Juan 
in Hell/' There have been and are times when I have felt that what 
I would like most is to be a circus clown, a part in which I could rely 
entirely on my own sense of invention. I may do it still. Acting in the 
theatre requires that you sustain a performance, and I find it harder 
work than acting in movies. In a film, when all is said and done, good 
cutting can make a good actor out of a donkey. I never go to see myself 
in the movies thanks to Bernard Shaw, really. I once said to him 
that it might be a good idea to go and see yourself, as a way of seeing 
what you do and learning to correct your faults. You're more likely, 
he told me, to destroy your virtues. If you watch yourself in the movies, 
you become terribly self-conscious and begin trying to make yourself 
like other people, when the one thing you have that counts as an actor 
is whatever you have that makes you different. You don't ever want 
to destroy that individuality. Theatre acting gives you a rehearsal 
period of three weeks. The movies don't allow time. During rehears- 
als for the stage, you adapt the character to yourself just as much as 
you adapt yourself to the character. You begin to feel it's right when 
you feel one little bit of it is right. The rest of it will then fall into 
place. You have an awareness of what you're doing, but it's instinctive. 
The best effects are the ones you are not conscious of. Actors began 
to decay when they began to understand what they were saying. All 
this playing around with psychoanalysis, all this looking deep within 
yourself, is ruining actors. It's ruining everybody, for that matter. The 
great Shakespearean actors didn't have the vaguest idea what the hell 
they were saying. Ellen Terry didn't know what it was all about, but 
she never made a mistake, I once saw her when she was quite old. She 
forgot her lines, stepped out of the play and said something to the 
audience, then stepped back into her part, I've always remembered one 
piece of advice Herbert Beerbohm Tree gave to an actor who was in- 
clined to underact. He told him, "When an actor in my beautiful 
theatre carries onto the stage a candle, I tell the electrician to turn on 
two limelights, two whole battens of lights, and twenty lamps in the 
footlights, representing in all some six thousand candle power. In my 
beautiful theatre, one candle is represented by six thousand. Remem- 
ber that when you act here." The theatre is for big dramatic effects, 



Unless the audience gets it immediately, the audience doesn't get it at 
all. Acting is a physical thing. You're always part of the picture. You 
suggest physically as well as with your voice. Actually, the low point 
of acting is when you are using your voice. Ellen Terry, who had a 
most destructive charm, gave me her best advice when she told me, 
"My boy, act in your pauses." 

The more I see of life, the more I prefer the world of the theatre 
to the real world. Strangely enough, the world has become more 
theatrical, while the theatre has become more drab. Good acting is 
good faking, really. You start to become the person you play only at 
the moment you start to play. When I wash my makeup off, I wash the 
part out of myself. For many people, a fake life is more interesting 
than a real one. The art of acting has always been the art of faking 
your own life and faking life for other people. You act for the audi- 
ence. The amateur acts for his own pleasure; the professional acts for 
the pleasure of other people. Actors today have power. They go into 
every home by way of television. They give pleasure to millions. When 
I started out in the theatre, only a few people came to see actors act 
in the theatre. Today, because actors have power, a great many of 
them kid themselves into thinking that what they do is important. The 
attention they get and their publicity are way out of proportion to 
their real importance. I'm always embarrassed when I'm stopped on 
the street because I'm an actor. After all, what are we doing? We are 
the fakers of the world. 

We live in an impatient age today. An actor wants to make a lot of 
money in a short time. When I started out, it took me twelve years to 
get an important part to play in London. But I was willing to wait. 
Acting was an obsession with me. It still is. Your only true guide is 
"I want to be an actor, and I cannot be anything else." If you ask 
"Should I be?" you should keep away from the theatre and not go 
into it at all. 



At times, I think that acting is no business for a self- 
respecting man. At other times, I feel that, in this 
ghastly, mechanical world we inhabit, anyone con- 
nected with any of the arts is very fortunate indeed, 

1 was born on April 5, 1901, in Macon, Georgia. My real name is 
Melvyn Hesselberg. My father, Edouard Hesselberg, was a musical 
prodigy, a concert pianist. He was a Russian Jew, from Riga, who 
came to America on tour as a young man and was persuaded to 
stay and teach at a college in Colorado, where he met my mother, 
Lena Shackleford. She was a Southern lady from Kentucky, and she 
died in 1960, at the age of ninety-three. My father died in 1936. I 
have one brother, George, two and a half years younger than I am, 
who lives in California and is in the real-estate business. I have a 
son, Gregory Hesselberg, born in 1925, by my first marriage, which 
lasted about a year. He is a painter, is married and has three 
children, and lives outside New Haven. I've been married to 
Helen Gahagan Douglas since 1931, and we have two children: 
Peter, twenty-eight, who i a Public Welfare Administration worker 
and is married, with two children; and Mary, twenty-three, who has 
a bent for both painting and acting. I live in New York, in an apart- 
ment on Riverside Drive, with one of the loveliest views of the Hudson 



River in the whole city. When I was three years old, my father moved 
us to Nashville, Tennessee, where he got a job as head of the Music 
Department of Ward-Belmont School, a women's college. One of my 
horrible memories is of going to a grammar school that was set up in 
this women's college for the children of faculty members. Then, at the 
age of seven, I went to school for a year in Wiesbaden, Germany, where 
my father took the family for my mother's health. I learned to speak 
perfect children's German. My father tried to get me to study the 
piano and then the violin, but I resisted anything having to do with 
music; it was the old story of the musician's trying to force his art down 
his child's throat unsuccessfully, to my sorrow in later years. When I 
was eleven, we moved to Toronto, where my father taught at a con- 
servatory of music, and five years later we moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. 
My father was in charge of the Music School of the University of 
Nebraska for two years. I was a wild kid tall, slender, and blond. At 
the age of fourteen, in Toronto, I lied about my age and tried to 
enlist in the Canadian Army, but my father stopped them from taking 
me. I had no interest in the theatre in those days no appetite for it. 
I had seen one touring production of "Peter Pan" and a comedy 
based on "Buster Brown," a comic strip of the time. In Lincoln, a 
drama teacher at the university tried to get me to act in a school 
theatre he was running. I played a Hindu in a play called "The Little 
Princess," but I had no idea what it was all about or what I was doing. 
All it meant to me was a lark, a chance to get away from school for a 
day. In high school, I acted in one play, Barrie's "Quality Street." 
I played Valentine Brown, the lead. I became hopelessly confused 
in my lines, but my classmates presented me with a bouquet and 
I emerged feeling as important as a star athlete. I belonged to a high- 
school imitation of a college fraternity, a secret society of about twenty 
boys that was devoted to smoking, drinking beer, and staging violent 
initiations. Halfway through my junior year, the school authorities 
found out about us and we were all expelled. After that, I hung 
around the community stock company in the vague hope that it 
might lead me to adventure. We put on a play a week, and I had a 
few walk-ons, at a dollar a performance, in plays like "The Trail of 
the Lonesome Pine." 

When I was seventeen, I ran away to Omaha and enlisted in the 
United States Army. I spent my service in Fort D. A. Russell, in 



Cheyenne, Wyoming, and in Camp Lewis, Washington, as an orderly 
in a hospital ward and operating room. Just as I was about to work 
with a sanitary train a sort of field-hospital unit the war ended and 
I was discharged. In the Army, I met a young painter from Chicago, 
a well-read fellow, who gave me books to read. I read the works of 
Isaac Newton, Spinoza, and Schopenhauer, and I heard about artists 
and the arts. A whole new world was opened to me. In the mean- 
time, my family had moved to Chicago, and after my discharge 
I joined them there. My father was giving piano lessons and working 
for a music-publishing firm. My parents wanted me to go back to 
school for a high-school diploma, and they wanted me to go to 
college. We had a lot of arguments about it. Around that time, 
I met a man named William Owen, who was well known in the Mid- 
dle West as an actor, and who was a member of a group of artists, 
musicians, writers who got together regularly. Mr. Owen talked about 
the theatre in a way that was new to me. The stage, he said, was a place 
where you could do something creative. He lived in a rooming house, 
where he also gave acting lessons, and after a big row with my mother 
one day I left home and went to live in that rooming house. I studied 
with Mr. Owen for two years and supported myself by doing odd jobs 
reading gas meters, and selling hats at Marshall Field's department 
store. Before I came into contact with Mr. Owen, being an actor to me 
was just an excuse for sleeping late. I more or less came of age in Chi- 
cago. Mr. Owen was an old duck with enormous enthusiasm and ex- 
traordinary idealism about the theatre, which he communicated to me, 
in terms of art. I'd tried to write poetry, and I had a feeling, no matter 
how undisciplined, for music, and I was doing a lot of exciting reading, 
and all this awakened nebulous, shapeless things in me yearnings to- 
ward some sort of creative endeavor. It was 1919, and Chicago was a 
very lively place then. It was the time, in Chicago, of Maxwell Boden- 
heim and Floyd Dell, of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, and our 
idols were Carl Sandburg and Clarence Darrow and Eugene Victor 
Debs. We were all sort of left of center. It was long before the days of 
commercial airlines, and most of the creative spirits of the Midwest 
came to Chicago and stayed. It was really a yeasty atmosphere. George 
Bellows had started teaching at the Chicago Art Institute and given it a 
shot in the arm, and it became an exciting place. And there were so 
many other things. Everywhere you went, you could hear good jazz. 



I sometimes think I've never known anything since that was quite 
so heady and exciting. The bohemian gathering place of the day in 
Chicago was the Dill Pickle Club, on the Near North Side. The club, 
which was run by a wild-eyed man named Jack Jones, and which had 
its entrance in an alley, was a focal point for meetings, debates, plays, 
and weddings. You'd go there to hear about Charles MacArthur's 
latest newspaper exploits, which were renowned, or to talk about Ben 
Hecht's regular column in the Chicago Daily News, which was called 
"One Thousand and One Nights." You'd hear from or about Harriet 
Monroe, the editor of Poetry, or Jane Addams, of Hull House, or 
Alfred Kreymborg, an avant-garde poet who was then living in Chi- 
cago. Another of Mr. Owen's students was Ralph Bellamy. Mr. Owen 
taught me idealism and the importance of imagination in the theatre. 
He'd organize little dramatic presentations, which we'd do in schools 
or churches or meeting halls. We'd do "As You Like It," with me play- 
ing Orlando, for a flat fee of fifty dollars, split up evenly among the 
cast. Or I'd go out and do readings of Oscar Wilde's fairy tales, set to 
music, for five or ten dollars a night. 

In 1920, Mr. Owen put together a Shakespearean repertory company, 
and I went with it on a short tour of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and 
Wisconsin, playing second parts, like Mereutio in "Romeo and Juliet" 
and Claudius and the Ghost in "Hamlet." After that, I joined another 
small Shakespearean company, run by a man named John E. Kellerd, 
and toured with it throughout a good part of the country west of 
Chicago, and in Canada, playing such parts as Cassius in "Julius 
Caesar" and Banquo in "Macbeth." Those were the days before Actors 
Equity, and you went out on a tour at your own risk, hoping that it 
would get customers and you'd get paid. Nowadays, of course, a bond 
is posted, and if the tour is a flop you're brought back. In 1920, on a 
Kellerd tour, I found myself stranded in Toronto, with about twelve 
dollars. I couldn't get home, so I set myself up as a teacher of acting 
until I had enough money for my fare back to Chicago. 

By the time I returned to Chicago, I was professional enough to 
acquire an agent, who got me into my first really commercial job 
with the Dorothy LaVerne Players, a stock company in Sioux City, 
Iowa, where I did six months of stock. Like most of the stock com- 
panies in those days, we did all the current New York successes. 
I played Billy Benson in "East Is West," by Samuel Shipman and 



John B. Hymer, which Forrest Winant had played in New York, 
and an underworld character in Bayard Veiller's "Within the Law." 
I was paid fifty dollars a week, out of which I had to buy my own ward- 
robe and pay my living expenses. I played seventy-five different parts 
in seventy-five weeks. A tour took the company to Evansville, 
Indiana, then to Madison, Wisconsin, where I met the girl, a student, 
who became my first wife. I started my own stock company, with 
which I made some money, and for the first time in my life I found 
myself with some money in the bank. After my marriage broke up, 
I took this money and went off to Europe for five months. I in- 
tended to go to Berlin and ask Max Reinhardt if I might work 
with him, but when I'd got as far as Paris I stayed there, because 
I became so fascinated with the city. Those were the Ernest 
Hemingway-Ezra Found days in Paris. I went to the theatre constantly, 
and saw Moli&re performed at the Comdie-Francaise and Shakespeare 
at the Odon. I saw Louis Jouvet play Faust, and found him startlingly 

When my money ran out, I came home. I landed in New York with 
about fifty dollars in my pocket, and tried to get a job here, but no* 
body knew me. I lived in a residence club and went around to all 
the agencies. I'd been playing in stock companies for almost three 
years, and I'd played every kind of part imaginable, including all 
the big parts that had been played on Broadway by the stars of 
the day Holbrook Blinn, Richard Bennett, Otis Skinner, Walker 
Whiteside, and, in farce, Ernest Truex. I thought I was pretty good. 
Actually, I hadn't begun to ripen in terms of searching the in- 
sides of a part. I had quite extraordinary facility; I spoke distinctly; 
I moved with assurance; I had developed an at-homeness onstage, 
which I have to this day, and which I think is terribly important for 
young actors. But I had not yet reached the point of inquiring deeply 
into the characters I was playing. It was all pretty superficial If I had 
got a part on Broadway then, I would have fallen on my face. I had just 
agreed to take a job running an elevator in an apartment house on 
Park Avenue when I heard, via the grapevine, that Jessie Bonstelle, 
who ran two of the best stock companies of the time one in Detroit 
and the other in Buffalo, the latter in a theatre owned and managed 
by Katharine Cornell's father was in New York casting for her Detroit 
company. I barged into the Packard Agency office, where she was 



supposed to be, and was told she wasn't there. I saw her walk across 
the inner office, so I vaulted a railing and walked in there and began 
to talk. They tried to drag me out, but Miss Bonstelle said "Let 
him talk," and I wound up with a job in the Detroit company, at 
eighty-five dollars a week. Just before going to Detroit, I returned 
to Chicago. I played second parts, which was a bitter pill for me to 
swallow, but instinctively I knew that it was a sound thing for me 
to do. In my second season with the company, I played leading 
parts. It was good work. For the first time in my life, I was getting 
good direction, and I began to have some insight into what I was 
doing. Up to that point, I'd been learning the lines and putting on 
the makeup, and that was about all. Now I began to ask myself, 
"What does this particular man think about? What goes on in his 
heart to make him behave the way he does?" When I joined Miss 
Bonstelle, she was adamant about getting me to change my name. 
She said that Hesselberg was much too cumbersome to go up in 
lights. Douglas was the name of my maternal grandmother; by taking 
it, I felt that at least I was keeping a family name. 

In 1926, I returned to New York. William A. Brady, who, along 
with David Belasco, Arthur Hopkins, and Brock Pemberton, was one 
of the big producers of the time, signed me to a three-year contract, 
at a salary of a hundred and fifty dollars a week, to do anything he 
wanted me to do. I tried out in a few farces in Great Neck and Atlantic 
City, and then I made my Broadway dbut, on January 12, 1928, in 
"A Free Soul," by Willard Mack. I played Ace Wilfong, a young San 
Francisco gangster-gambler a Great Gatsby character but not nearly 
so good. It was a modest hit, and I went along with it for its run of 
a hundred performances. Two or three producers were asking to bor- 
row me by then; I'd made enough of an impression for that. I was 
lent to A. H. Woods for a tour of "Jealousy," by Eugene Walter, with 
Fay Bainter, and then to John Tuerk, for a tour of "The Command to 
Love," by Rudolph Lothar and Fritz Gottwald, which Basil Rathbone 
had played in New York. The play had a big-shot cast people like 
Mary Nash and Violet Kemble Cooper and Henry Stephenson, all top- 
flight exponents of what in those days was called drawing-room com- 
edy. I'd never played with such accomplished actors before. I be- 
gan to learn a great deal about poise and style, and I developed into 
a rather adept comedian or at least they all told me so. In the sum- 



mer of 1930, a writing team named Frederick and Fanny Hatton sent 
me to see David Belasco, because they thought I'd be right for a play 
he was planning to do called "Tonight or Never." I was ushered into 
his office, on top of the Belasco Theatre, on Forty-fourth Street. He 
sat behind his desk, with his white hair and his clerical collar, and as 
I went in I was picked up, as everybody was who went in there, by a 
spotlight. He asked me about my background, and what I told him 
seemed to impress him. When I said that I had one month left to go 
in my obligation to Brady, he sniffed a sniff of relish, and I could see 
that his interest was piqued. I wound up engaged for the lead in the 
play, at five hundred dollars a week the best salary I'd ever had in my 
life. By this time, too, I had a New York agent, who did the talking 
about money for me. I played the part of a man-about-town, the 
Unknown Gentleman an impresario who while scouting for talent 
meets the Prima Donna, played by Helen Gahagan. The play was a 
success, as almost anything Belasco did was bound to be. And Helen 
and I fell in love and were married during the run of the play. The 
wedding was held at her home, in Brooklyn. What days those were! 
Life hadn't become so mechanized. The theatre was far less com- 
mercialized. Conformity still hadn't taken hold. 

It had never occurred to me up to this point that I would have any- 
thing to do with motion pictures, but now I suddenly got offers. In 
1931, I went out to Hollywood under contract to Samuel Goldwyn, at 
a salary of nine hundred dollars a week. My first movie was the filmed 
version of "Tonight or Never," with Gloria Swanson playing the lead. 
She was at the height of her career, and the rumor was that she was 
going to make four pictures a year, at two hundred and fifty thousand 
dollars a picture. She'd arrive on the set with a retinue of servants, 
and at four o'clock she'd stop work. The servants would serve tea from 
a silver service, and we'd sit around and chat. Then we'd wrap up and 
go home. With that kind of beginning, I got an erroneous impression 
of how movies were made. Not many were made like that even in those 
halcyon days. I found the mechanics fascinating and exciting, and ut- 
terly different from anything I had known in the theatre, At first, I 
was impressed by the tricks the miniatures used for sets, the staging 
of crowd scenes. Then I became aware of the difference in the acting. 
It seemed to me that acting in movies was personality exploitation. 
Acting was the most important part to me, and I found out after a 


while that it wasn't very interesting. I didn't think I was very good in 
movies. I didn't think I was photogenic. I didn't feel I belonged. I 
thought I was a run-of-the-mill leading man. I didn't like it. I was 
a body slave to the producers, like a ballplayer. I had neither the time 
nor the ability to enjoy what I was doing. 

My second movie, "As You Desire Me," based on Pirandello's play, 
was with Greta Garbo. It was the first of three movies I made with her. 
She was a provocative girl. I found working with her an extraordinary 
experience. She wasn't a trained actress and she was aware of that 
herself but she had extraordinary intuitions, especially in the realm of 
erotic experience. I've never seen anything like her sensitive grasp of 
colors and shadings. Her acting made you feel that here was a woman 
who knew all there was to know about all aspects of love. I think her 
"Canaille" is one of the greatest things of all time as a fantastic por- 
trait of a woman in love. I was a little awestruck by Garbo at first, but 
I found her a very easy person to be with. We talked about everything, 
including her awareness of how she'd never really learned to be an 
actress. She was much more adept in the love scenes than in any other 
scenes. This impression was reinforced in my two other pictures with 
her "Ninotchka" and "Two-Faced Woman." She produced an ex- 
traordinarily comic effect in "Ninotchka," not so much because of any 
comic sense she may have had as through the genius of the director, 
Ernst Lubitsch; he knew just how to make use of the stolid Scandi- 
navian in her. But her love scenes left all of us astonished. She was ut- 
terly superb. In the scene in "Ninotchka" in which we come back to 
the hotel after drinking champagne and she behaves like a girl in love, 
she achieved a quality and a feeling that were literally breathtaking. 

Movies give you a kind of buildup and national reputation that 
aren't always possible in the theatre. Altogether, I made fifty or 
sixty movies. Occasionally, now, I watch myself in them on television, 
and my feelings about what I see range from horror to some slight 
pleasure. I'm interested and amused to see what I did in those movies. 
By 1942, 1 was earning thirty-five hundred dollars a week, with a guar- 
antee of at least forty weeks' work a year. I'd make over a hundred and 
eighty thousand dollars a year. But the money very soon ceased to be 
an attraction for me. Almost every part I played was a series of 
ghastly frustrations, especially when I had the kind of director I 
couldn't hold an intelligible conversation with, and I had a lot of that 



kind. If you work with an open-minded director, the part can become 
a voyage of exploration and discovery. Otherwise, it's just a matter of 
"Does the uniform fit properly?'' and "Does he know his lines?" and 
"Let's shoot it." I rarely carried away the feeling of having lived 
through the experience of my part; I carried away only the memory 
of the plot and some of my own lines. Of all the movies I made, I 
liked just two or three, and that was chiefly because of the directors. 
The pleasure and satisfaction came from my relationship with the 
directors, rather than from the parts I played. Under the direction of 
Ernst Lubitsch, I had great pleasure making "Angel," with Marlene 
Dietrich and Herbert Marshall, and "That Uncertain Feeling," with 
Merle Oberon and Burgess Meredith. It was always a joy to work with 
Lubitsch. To begin with, he was an enormously engaging man, and 
brilliantly imaginative. Attempted imitations of his work are still 
going on in Hollywood, but the imitations don't come off. It's like 
trying to imitate a writer by using some of the same words he uses. 
Lubitsch loved actors. He loved seeing an actor's wit work. If the 
actor had anything to offer, Lubitsch had the ability to stimulate his 
imaginative processes, to help him find nuances of character and 
amusing ways of doing things. And you felt you could rely on his 
taste, which is a wonderful thing for an actor to be able to feel. One 
other man I was grateful to and happy to work with was Richard Bole- 
slawski, who directed me in "Theodora Goes Wild," with Irene Dunne. 
He was a really creative guy, too different from Lubitsch, but another 
one of the kind you always hope to find working in a supposedly 
creative field. Boleslawski was a person of substance, of taste and imag- 
ination, who was completely articulate and was able to make his own 
quality felt in his movies. 

After nine or ten months in Hollywood, under contract to Gold- 
wyn, I got so I hated it. My wife didn't make movies; while I worked 
in pictures, she worked in the theatre in Los Angeles. I had a seven- 
year contract, but in 1932 I was able to get out of it, and my wife and 
I took a trip around the world. We returned from Japan to California, 
where our son Peter was born. In January, 1934, I went back into the 
legitimate theatre, playing the lead in "No More Ladies," by A. E. 
Thomas. My wife went to Hollywood during that season to do "She," 
the only picture she ever made, and when my play closed, I went out 
there to spend the summer with her. While I was hanging around, I 



was put under a joint contract by Columbia Pictures and M-G-M. 
Columbia asked me to do a film called "She Married Her Boss," with 
Claudette Colbert. I agreed. They made it a condition that I do 
three pictures a year for seven years, with options. I did that, never 
thinking they'd pick my option up. But that first movie turned out to 
be one of the most successful pictures Columbia ever made, and the 
studio did pick up the option. So there I was, stuck again, and feeling 
that I was in the wrong place again that it was the theatre that was 
natural to me. Then they began to give me the same kind of part over 
and over. My comedy role in that one successful movie was a salable 
commodity; they began exploiting what was supposed to be the comic 
Melvyn Douglas. Think of what M-G-M did to a fine actor like Frank 
Morgan. He just happened to do a few trick laughs in a picture, and 
from then on that was all that Frank Morgan did. I earned what be- 
came an international reputation for being one of the most debonair 
and witty farceurs in Hollywood. I was cut off from the world I knew. 
In 1941, I went to Washington to work in the Office of Civilian De- 
fense, and in 1942 I enlisted in the Army as a private. I'd been deeply 
involved with the Fight for Freedom Committee, headed by Wendell 
Willkie and Herbert Agar, and inasmuch as I'd been saying from the 
time England declared war that it was our war, I felt I had to 
take part. After basic training, I wanted to get overseas, which was 
impossible for an enlisted man of my age. I was offered a commis- 
sion by the Officer Procurement Division and was sent to the Special 
Services School, and, finally, to the China-Burma-India theatre of war, 
where I had the job of organizing entertainment for troops in the 
area. My wife, meanwhile, had been elected to Congress from Cal- 
ifornia. She served from 1945 to 1949. I was demobilized in November, 
1945, and found myself still under contract to M-G-M and Columbia. I 
hung around New York for a while, and in 1946 I co-produced, with 
Herman Levin, the New York musical revue "Call Me Mister/ 1 Then 
I reported back to Hollywood, made a picture for M-G-M "The Sea 
of Grass/' with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, directed by 
Elia Kazan and made "The Guilt of Janet Ames/' with Rosalind Rus- 
sell, for Columbia. Fortunately, at that point my lawyer found a 
loophole in my contract and was able to get me out of it. I made a 
couple of pictures on a free-lance basis, and then, in March, 1949, to 
my delight and satisfaction, I returned to the Broadway stage, in 



"Two Blind Mice," by Samuel Spewack. Being on the stage again was 
an exhilarating experience the rehearsal period, developing in a part, 
playing to a live audience, the whole thing. The play lasted for a 
hundred and fifty-seven performances, and when it closed on Broad- 
way, I went on a fairly long tour with it. I went right on with the 
stage, starring in "Glad Tidings," by Edward Mabley, in October, 
1951, which I also staged, and which lasted for a hundred per- 
formances, and appearing in Edmund Wilson's unusual play "The Lit- 
tle Blue Light," which was produced by Peter Cookson, Hume Cronyn, 
and Martin Manulis, and the Brattle Theatre Company, at the ANTA 
Playhouse, in the spring of 1951. In November, 1952, I opened in 
"Time Out for Ginger," by Ronald Alexander, which had a season 
on Broadway and played about nine months in Chicago alone. 

I did some television work, and then, in 1955, stepped in as Henry 
Drummond in "Inherit the Wind," by Jerome Lawrence and Robert 
E. Lee, for three months, in New York, when Paul Muni became ill, 
and continued playing the role on tour for a year. The years since 
then have been, except for my very early years, the most productive 
and most satisfying of my life. I took the leads in three other plays: 
"The Waltz of the Toreadors," by Jean Anouilh, on tour and then in 
New York; "The Gang's All Here," also by Lawrence and Lee; and 
"The Best Man," by Gore Vidal. And I've done acting in television and 
in movies as a free agent, doing what I wanted to do. In "Inherit the 
Wind," I toured all over the country. The play was about the Scopes 
trial. People who remembered Clarence Darrow would come by the 
dozen to see me after the play. Some people had loved him and others 
had hated him, but they all wanted to tell me what Darrow had meant 
to them. I was real to them in the part. I found it exciting to make 
the ideas in the play come to life. "The Gang's All Here" was based on 
the life of President Harding, but this time the authors didn't dig 
deeply enough into the hero's character. It was something of a chal- 
lenge to take him, this very weak man, and make the audience sympa- 
thize with his ignominious defeat. 

I don't know how good an actor I am. I have mixed feelings about 
doing the work. In acting, I draw on my own real experience or imag- 
inative experience, and try to do it vividly and truthfully, so as to con- 
vince the audience. I begin by taking the text of the play as a guide. 
Step by step, I imagine what the character is his personality, his 



thinking, his feeling. Sometimes a director can help you find these 
things. Then I call on the tools of the trade my body movement, my 
voice, my physical relationship to the others in the play. I start 
slowly, in rehearsals, and then gradually speed up. I start loud and 
then gradually get softer. I never have an exact idea of what I'm 
going to do until I start rehearsals. Right in the middle of playing 
a scene, I sometimes think of something new to do, and do it. 

An actor can't be a prude or a moralist. If he is, he shuts his eyes to 
the possibilities of feeling for or with another kind of human being, 
whatever he may be. In September, 1958, I played Joseph Stalin in a 
"Playhouse 90" television show, "The Plot to Kill Stalin." I was 
limited by time, but I did my best to understand what Stalin was 
and why he functioned as he did. Some young actors tend to use 
acting as a way of making a public show of their own attitudes toward 
life. An actor must put himself in the background. You must keep 
yourself out of the play. You must concentrate fully on the character 
in the play. The actor's self will come through automatically. His job 
is to portray his character with the greatest sympathy and under- 
standing. No matter how well written the play is, it's the actor who 
brings it to life. At its best, acting is more creative than most people 



What you bring to a part is what you have within 
you. It's your very first intuition about a part that 
comes out in the end. 

I was born on August 29, 1917, in Stockholm, Sweden. I was an only 
child. My father, Justus Bergman, a painter and photographer who 
operated a camera shop on the ground floor of our apartment build- 
ing, on the Strandvagen, the most beautiful street in the city, died 
when I was twelve. My mother, whose maiden name was Friedei Adler 
she was a German, from Hamburg died when I was two. My 
father was a handsome man dark, tall, and heavy, but not fat. 
He took a lot of photographs of me, but I could never sit still for 
portraits. After my father died, I lived with his unmarried sister 
for six months, and then she died. Alone again, I went to live with 
my father's brother, who also lived in Stockholm. He had five chil- 
dren, the youngest of whom was a girl my age. I was a very lonely 
child. I didn't have many playmates. I grew up mostly with older 
people. I withdrew from younger people, making up my own stories, 
my own plays. My father took me to the opera, but I didn't like it. 
I asked him why they sang, why they didn't talk. My father was a 
good singer and had me take singing lessons. A year before he died, he 
took me to see a.Swedish play, "Patrasket," by Hjalmar Bergman, which 
was about poor people. I loved it so much. My relatives had always 



called me silly for making up my own plays, living in a dream world. 
Now I saw grown-up people doing it on the stage, and nobody thought 
it was silly. 

I went to the Lyceum School for Girls, in Stockholm, until I was 
seventeen. I didn't do any acting, but I read dramatic poems at school 
or in the evening for visitors to my uncle's house. I wanted to attend 
the state-supported Royal Dramatic Theatre School, but it was 
difficult to get into. My uncle was against my acting, but he said if I 
got into the school, it would be all right. I did get in. For my audition, 
I did three things: Strindberg's "The Dream Play," in which nothing 
happens but talk about the misery of life and death; a burlesque, 
from a German play, of a peasant girl teasing a boy; and Rostand's 
"L'Aiglon." Everybody else was doing "La Dame aux Camelias," and 
I wanted to be different. I was shy and scared, but I was also a show- 
off. If I was asked anything, I would blush. (I still blush today.) If 
I went into a room, I would knock a chair over. But although I was shy, 
I had a lion roaring inside me that wouldn't sit down and shut up. 
Everybody in the theatre, I think, is like that. People teased me, ask- 
ing, "Why do you want to be an actress? You don't even know how 
to walk into a restaurant." To this day, I hate to make an entrance. 
It is difficult for me to get up on a dance floor, because I feel that 
everybody is watching. But if I played somebody else walking into a 
restaurant or getting up on a dance floor, I could do it. I couldn't be 
blamed. It wouldn't be me. After a year at the Royal Dramatic 
Theatre School, I was offered a contract with the Svensk Filmindustri. 
I was so young I had no patience with school. The school head has 
never forgiven me for leaving. He says I should have stayed and 
learned more about acting. But I was eighteen and confident. I 
thought the movies would be a short cut. I don't know much about 
acting, even today. I have never read anything about acting. Instinct 
is what I go on. The one year of school was wonderful training, and 
I'm sure I learned a lot about using the voice, using the body, listening 
to other people. Way down, whatever you learn stays with you. 

I was married for the first time in 1937, to Peter Aron Lindstrom. 
My daughter Friedel Pia was born on September 20, 1938, and the 
Swedish version of the film "Intermezzo" was released late that year. 
I went to the United States the following year to make "Intermezzo" 
in Hollywood. In my first three movies in the United States "In- 



termezzo," "Adam Had Four Sons," and "Rage in Heaven" I played 
exactly the same kind of woman placed in three different stories. I 
started to get terribly worried. I felt I must change. For "Dr. Jekyll 
and Mr. Hyde" they wanted me to play the same kind of girl again, 
but I said no, I wanted to play the prostitute. So I did. 1 was against 
typecasting; I fought against it. The public already had me set in 
their minds as a type, but I fought it. I have always been called the 
great outdoor girl, but it is a big mistake. 

It's true I love to live in the country. My home is now in Choisel, 
thirty miles from Paris, in an old French farmhouse with flowers and 
vegetable gardens. My son Roberto and my twin daughters Ingrid 
and Isabella are with me, and we have four dogs, six ducks, and some 
cats. My husband, Lars Schmidt, produces several plays in France 
and Scandinavia each year. We are in the heart of Europe, near the 
most enchanting town in the world. In the summer, we go to our 
place on Danholmen, an island off the Swedish west coast, where 
we don't have electricity and there is no telephone and we swim and 
read and eat only the fish we catch. We love to travel to New York, 
which is even bigger and noisier than Paris and is a very exciting place 
to work. I enjoy coining to New York. I find it very stimulating to 
work here in television. Television acting combines the best of the the- 
atre and the best of movies. It is another new thing to do and to try. In 
making a movie, you say a line over and over, and by the time you've 
said it for the take, you don't remember what it is you're saying. 
Acting in the theatre, you have to shout, so that people up in the 
balcony can hear you. But when you do a television play, there are 
four cameras working at once, and you have both the wonderful in- 
timacy of the screen and the live acting of the stage. In television, I 
know I have to be calm while everybody else is rushing around, and 
I love it. 

When I first saw Roberto Rossellini's "Open City" and "Paisan," I 
thought they were so marvellous. I hated the monotony of making 
pictures in Hollywood. I had a very good life, but it had a certain 
boredom. With Rossellini I started all over again, and it was very 
good for me. When we made "Stromboli," we had the most difficult 
locations never a comfortable dressing room and we had to work 
with rank amateurs. Other people may not want that, but it was won- 
derful for me. But I wanted to change. When I gave birth to little Rob- 



erto, the whole world started to throw stones at me. But I knew I had 
friends when I received a letter from Ernest Hemingway saying he 
wanted to be the baby's godfather. And when I came to New York 
to accept the New York Film Critics award for "Anastasia," Heming- 
way said, "I'll come with you and punch the first one in the nose who 
says anything bad to you/' In Sweden, almost everybody hides inside 
himself. Everybody is afraid to be himself or herself. I have 
changed my life so many times. Each time, I started out with a 
suitcase and my clothes, and that was the way I wanted it. But what- 
ever I do, I couldn't ever stop my career. My enthusiasm today is 
exactly the same as it was when I started going to dramatic school. I 
can't imagine what it must be like to get up every morning at the 
same time, go to a job, work for somebody you hate, doing typing. 
I remember in California, when I worked for Warner Brothers, driv- 
ing to the studio early in the morning, coming over the mountains 
the way the morning looked, the way the morning felt. And I was so 
grateful that I had got into work that I loved so much. You don't 
act for the money. You do it because you love it, because you must. 

I never do a part that I don't like. I love working with actors. It is 
like being with one big group of children. The best actors have 
presence and personality, a gift that you have to be born with. You 
know what it is when you see it an actor comes onstage, and if he 
has it, you wait for him to come back. Then, you need talent and 
discipline. To act with performers who have these qualities gives me 
great happiness. But I also feel that doing certain parts has significance 
for me. My playing Joan of Arc meant much more to me than just 
entertaining people. People had to know there were such people as 
Joan of Arc in the world. I think I have carried Joan of Arc with me all 
my life. She is like an old friend. I've always known her much better 
than anyone else. I've always loved the role of Joan, which I've played 
in a movie, a play, and an opera* I don't believe actors who say they 
become the part. You are, to some extent, carried away, and the part 
should become true to you, but you are always there. When you play 
a murderer, you don't go out and murder somebody. Creating a role 
is like making a painting it is separate from you. Whenever I read 
a play or a story, I read leaning toward the part I feel I am going to 
play. It's the same as when I go into a projection room to see myself in 
a movie. I watch myself and nothing else. I sometimes don't even know 



what the rest of the. movie Is about. I always feel embarrassed when 
another actor asks me "How did you like me?" because I haven't 
even seen him. Many people say that actors can't grasp the quality 
of a part when they read a script for the first time. It's true that I may 
be somewhat off balance, but I feel I can read. I always try to figure 
out why a person behaves the way she does. I have to make my own 
foundation, my own little staircase. It's possible that the audience will 
never get it, but I always have to try my own way. When I played the 
part of Anastasia, I believed she was the Czar's daughter, so I 
played it that way. The director told me I played it so sincerely 
that everybody would believe she was the Czar's daughter. But my own 
idea was that she was; otherwise I couldn't have played it. How could 
I play it and lie? When I do a part, I always invent characteristics to 
bear out what I understand the part to be. If it is clear in your head, 
you can convey it. It's the little things that the audience sees. This we 
learn from films. I always want an explanation for everything in a 
part. What does this mean? Why open a window? I have to have it 
terribly clear in my mind. Then I try to behave as though I were an- 
other person. But I use my own ways. If you play twenty parts, you are 
certainly bound to repeat things, but I try within my limits to make 
each character a different person. There is a kind of acting in the 
United States, especially in the movies, where the personality remains 
the same in every part. I like changing as much as possible. The 
Swedish idea of acting is that you do change; you play another person 
each time. To me, doing that is natural. 


Once, in a television play, the role called upon me 
to ask a girl to pass me the salt } and I wanted to 
give my line certain meaningful overtones, so I said 
to myself , "Sal* is the most important thing in the 

1 was born on April 9, 1942, in Brooklyn. I'm an only child. My 
parents, Frederick and Eugenia Wilson de Wilde, are both former 

actors, My mother gave up acting when I was born. My father has been 
in the theatre since 1985, and is now a director and one of the most 
highly regarded stage managers in New York. I've been acting since I 
was seven. My father handles my professional affairs. We are free-lance 
and independent. There is nothing for us in life but the theatre. We 
love it, in a very realistic way. I spent the first three years of my life 
in Young&town, New York, where, during the Second World War, my 
father was a first lieutenant and then a captain in the Army. After 
his discharge, we bought a house in Baldwin, Long Island, which we 
sold recently. We now live in a ten-room apartment in the West 
Eighties, in New York, As a very small child, I didn't have any special 
interest in acting. In the first grade at school, I was one of three silent 
little kittens in a class play. It embarrassed me. I kept trying to creep 
out of the room. I saw a lot of plays when I was a little kid, and the first 
show I loved was "Oklahoma!" When I was seven, a friend of ours 



named Theresa Fay, who was, and still is, casting director for the 
producer Robert Whitehead came to dinner at our house. She 
mentioned that they were looking all over New York for a boy to play 
an important role in a new play, 'The Member of the Wedding," by 
Carson McCullers. I was in the second grade at the time, and was 
having trouble with my schoolwork, especially reading. When Terry 
suggested that I read for the role in the play, my father and mother said 
no; they wanted me to have an average, normal life. But Terry was 
persuasive. She told them that Harold Clurman was going to direct 
the play and that Ethel Waters and Julie Harris were cast for leading 
roles. So we decided to try it. I could read well enough to be able to 
memorize lines, and after I knew my lines, my father went over them 
with me. Then I was taken to Mr. Whitehead's office for a reading. He 
told us almost immediately that I could have the part, and we told 
him we would have to think it over. After I was cast, we had to drive 
down to Norfolk, Virginia, for my Aunt June's wedding. My father 
and mother taught me the lines of the play on the trip down. It was 
pretty much left up to me whether I wanted to become an actor. On 
the drive down, my father and mother asked me in many different 
ways whether I really wanted to do it. I still wasn't sure. On the trip 
back up, we worked on the lines carefully and seriously. My father 
would cue me, and I would say the lines, trying to understand them. 
When we got back to New York, Mr. Whitehead asked me whether 
I really wanted to do it, and I just said yes. 

I was never nervous in "The Member of the Wedding," but I re- 
member that the first time I got onstage, for a rehearsal, it looked like 
the biggest place in the world. Everyone and everything on it except 
me seemed big. When we opened in Philadelphia, an orchestra started 
playing, and I began to cry. I hadn't known there would be an orches- 
tra, and the unexpectedness of it frightened me. But I quieted down 
before going onstage. The play itself didn't mean anything to me. It 
was about a twelve-year-old girl whose brother was going to get mar- 
ried, and who wanted to participate in the wedding. My part was that 
of her seven-year-old cousin, who wanted to be part of it all, too. But I 
didn't understand the play or the role. All it meant to me was acting 
being on a stage with other actors. The excitement of it was what I 
liked. I loved the whole feeling of being in the theatre. I loved Julie 
Harris and everybody else in the play. I think we were a terribly 



close cast. All the others were always so nice to me. They were my 
friends. We would often have dinner together. We were in Philadel- 
phia during the Christmas holidays the first time in my life I'd 
been away from home at Christmas. My father and mother were with 
me, but it was still different from being home. On Christmas Eve, when 
I got to my dressing room I found a little tree, all trimmed, and pres- 
ents from the cast. I had my eighth birthday during the run of the play, 
and the cast gave me a party. I received a Donaldson Award, for the 
best male d^but performance of the 1949-50 season. My father and 
mother casually mentioned the award to me, but I didn't see it until 
two or three years later. Even then, it didn't mean anything to me, 
though now I know it's a fine award. All my awards are hanging on 
the walls of our den. I was never allowed to read reviews. My parents 
didn't tell me about all the praise. I think they tried to keep me from 
getting conceited. My school life changed when I started to act pro- 
fessionally. In the morning, I would go to a private tutor's house a few 
blocks away from us in Baldwin, and the tutor would give me gram- 
mar-school lessons for two hours. In the afternoon, I went to regular 
classes in the regular school. I hated a lot of what happened at school. 
I think I became a bit of a wise guy; I know I got beaten up a lot. 
There was a big football field next to the school, and sometimes 
while I was walking across it a bunch of kids would come along and 
say, "Let's get that actor." There are bullies in every school. Lots of 
the other kids were my friends and still are. In my last three high- 
school years, I studied in private tutoring schools for the most part, and 
today I go to a local tutoring school Searing Schools that gives ad- 
vanced-placement courses. There just hasn't been time for me to go 
to college. 

From the beginning, my father taught me that I had to believe in a 
character in order to have the audience believe in it. He showed me 
how I had to feel that I was the character. And he told me I must 
never try to imitate anyone else, even him. I got the idea, in my own 
way, from the start. I just always knew I was someone else on the stage. 
My father was stage manager of my first three plays, and made all the 
main decisions about what plays I did. It was natural for me to follow 
his advice. After I opened in my first play, I was offered roles in a lot of 
television dramas. We accepted two plays for "The Philco Television 
Playhouse," on N.B.C., and I had the experience of playing with all 



kinds of actors. I was In a play called "No Medals on Pop/' with my 
father. It was about a kid in school who didn't worship his own father 
but did worship his gym teacher. My father had the part of my father 
in the play. Formerly, when I had watched my father on television, 
he had always been my father, not the character he was playing. But 
this wasn't the same as watching him, because in this one I was an 
actor with him. Then, at home, he was my father again, helping me 
with this part, too. 

After appearing in "The Member of the Wedding" for about 
two years, I went out to Hollywood with my mother to make my 
first movie, "Shane," which was produced and directed by George 
Stevens, and which starred Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, and Van Heflin. 
I was sort of bored by the long-drawn-out movie procedure, but the 
picture went over in a big way. In "Shane," I played a hero-worship- 
ping boy who idolized a gunfighter. We made part of the movie on 
location in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was fun to be there, riding 
horses and wearing cowboy clothes. I'd been riding since I was five, 
but now instead of riding on bridle paths 1 could ride in the wide open 
spaces. On weekdays when I wasn't working, my parents, Jean Arthur, 
some wranglers I knew, and I went horseback riding, and I used to 
imagine that we were cowboys in the old West. By the time the movie 
was finished, I was nine. It was not long afterward that I made the 
movie version of "The Member of the Wedding." After "Shane," I 
rejoined "The Member of the Wedding" on the road, and then I 
went into my second Broadway play, "Mrs. McThing," by Mary 
Chase, with Helen Hayes. It opened in February, 1952, and I was 
with it for about six months. I never got bored while I was doing 
it, any more than I did while I was in my first play. I'm never 
bored onstage. When I first met Helen Hayes, I had no idea 
that she was a famous actress. I liked being in the play with her, but 
I never got to know her well. She was a good friend of my parents'. We 
often went to her house in the country for dinner, and while my par- 
ents talked to her I would try to play with her son, James MacArthur. 
He's about four years older than I am, and I guess he didn't like the 
idea too well. But sometimes he and I sneaked cigarettes together. By 
the time that play was finished, I was ten and a half, and in the fourth 
grade. My third play was "The Emperor's Clothes," which was written 
by George Tabori and directed by Harold Clurman. It was about the 
threat of Communism, and although it was a failure, lasting only 



sixteen performances, I thought it was a beautiful play. But the critics 
didn't dig it. Lee J. Cobb played my father and Maureen Stapleton 
my mother. The play had a feeling of mystery and heavy drama. It was 
the first time that I began to understand what I was doing as an 
actor. I was about eleven. 

When I was eleven and twelve, I did a live-television series, called 
"Jamie," for a little over a year. It was specially written for me. I 
played an orphan who was shifted around from one family to another 
and finally found a home. My father was associate producer, together 
with David Susskind and Julian Claman. But it was all too much for 
me. The work was too hard. I had to go to school and learn things like 
geography and arithmetic, and learning lines for a new show every 
week was just too much. I began to hate rehearsing at home with my 
father. I liked rehearsing in the theatre, but when I was home I liked 
to go outside and play with the kids. I had terrible battles with my 
father. They would usually wind up with my calling him stupid and 
his calling me stupid the way a lot of kids and their fathers yell at 
each other. We did that until I was about fifteen. 

For four years, between the ages of eleven and fifteen, I did a lot of 
travelling back and forth between coasts for television and movies. One 
movie was "Good-Bye, My Lady," directed by William A. Wellman, 
which I made for Warner Brothers. It was really a beautiful movie, 
about a boy and his uncle played by Walter Brennan and a dog 
they found. The dog was a basenji, from Africa, which doesn't bark. 
After the movie was made, the studio gave the dog to me, and I named 
her Lady. I still have her. The movie is a real tear-jerker, but lovely. 
In some ways, that's the best part I've ever had. I like roles that are 
quietly emotional. Anybody can rant and rave. One picture I was in 
that my parents and I didn't like was "Night Passage," with James 
Stewart and Audie Murphy, It was the biggest clich< picture ever 
made. It had all the cliches from every other clich picture in history. 
The only thing it left out was the Indians. About thirty-five people 
had a say in it. It was about two brothers, one good and the other 
bad, and when the Utica Kid, the bad brother, robbed a train, I 
carried the money in a shoe box. It was a mess. We call it "the money 
picture," because the only thing that we remember it for is that money 
in the shoe box. 

We say no as often as we say yes to offers that come our way. We 
turned down twenty-five movie offers before we decided to do "Shane." 



We've turned down at least a hundred and fifty movies since I started 
working. All three of us discuss every script that's sent to us. We each 
read it separately, then we talk about it usually at dinner. We tear 
it apart and each of us gives his opinion. We turn down a script if it 
sounds too Hollywoody a shallow, ha-ha, yippee thing. I'm always 
being offered parts as the good ail-American boy. I suppose I have 
that kind of face. But I like to play parts with a little more depth. I'd 
prefer to play a kind of nut, with a kind of nastiness and meanness in 
him, rather than the boy next door who gets into a little trouble and 
then gets out of that little trouble. When we read the script for the 
recent movie "All Fall Down," which I made with Warren Beatty, we 
all came to the conclusion that the best part was the one offered to 
me that of the younger brother because he was not only the most 
sympathetic character but, in the end, the strongest and best. I got so 
wound up at one point in the movie while I was telling my brother 
what a bum he was, because he'd made the girl who loved him, Eva 
Marie Saint, pregnant, and he'd disappointed his whole family that 
I forgot that I was really just acting. I narrated the whole picture. 
Angela Lansbury played my mother, and Karl Maiden played my 
father. I worked hard on that part. It's my favorite. I played a 
sixteen-year-old boy, but I felt bigger and older than I'd ever felt 
before. It may be because I felt I was really playing somebody apart 
from myself, for the very first time. I could play a sixteen-year-old 
boy rather than be a sixteen-year-old boy. I was older nineteen 
and still I could understand how a sixteen-year-old boy felt. I read 
the book the movie was based on four times, and felt I understood 
all the other characters as well as my own. It was the first time my 
father hadn't helped me with a role. When he saw the picture, he 
said my performance was great. That meant a lot to me. I was lucky 
in that movie. We had a good cast and a good director, John Franken- 
heimer, and we were given two weeks for rehearsal, so that it was 
almost like being in a play. Everyone came to the first day of re- 
hearsal knowing his lines and ready to rehearse, with the exception of 
one actor, who kept the script in his hands up until the last day and 
annoyed everyone else. It's difficult to act with someone who just sits 
and reads during rehearsal and is probably thinking he'll save the 
work until later. A selfish actor can throw a whole performance off. 
Once in a while, I'm selfish, too, but I try not to be. If the part calls 



for another actor to communicate with me, and he just sits with the 
script in front of his face, that's selfishness for its own sake. Some of 
our greatest actors are selfish actors, but they're not selfish in petty 
ways. They're not just upstagers. Lesser actors might get in front of 
other actors, which is strictly an amateurish thing, or they might step 
on somebody else's laugh or talk at the top of their lungs or make 
some gesture to take attention away from the actor who happens to be 
saying his lines. It's even possible to be selfish unknowingly. My father 
has taught me that many actors play for themselves only and don't 
listen to the other actors. I just don't ever want to be like that myself. 
No really great actor is selfish in that sense. Everything I've ever done 
with my father's guidance has turned out to be good. He can explain 
meanings in a character that are deeper than I'm capable of finding 
or understanding by myself. I've learned almost everything I know 
from my father, and when I understand as much about acting as he 
does, it will be all I need to know. 

One of my favorite actors is Laurence Olivier. He never does any- 
thing in a part that's similar to something he's done in a previous 
part; he makes every role different. I don't think learning to act ever 
comes to an end. In addition to what I learn from my father, I learn 
technique by going to plays, listening to other actors, working with my 
directors, and asking a lot of questions. When I was in Hollywood mak- 
ing the movie of "Blue Denim," in which I played the part of the 
adolescent boy in love, I thought the way I played it was good but 
not good enough. I should have done better. I didn't make a good 
enough transition from being a boy to the realization that I was 
going to be the father of a baby. By then, I was seventeen. I work very 
hard when I'm learning a part. I spend three or four hours a night 
studying the script, alone, in bed. Along with memorizing my lines, 
I like to make a lot of notes about how I should move or look. 

By the time I'm twenty-five, I want to be a director as well as act. 
My father and my lawyer and I have recently become a corporation, 
and we may do a television series soon, starring me. My true love is still 
the theatre, but the movies and television are also fine, as long as I can 
be acting. I haven't done a lot of things other kids get to do I've 
gone to only three or four dances in my life but I'm not sorry. I'd 
never want to give up acting. 


Acting and living are quite close. You grow as an 
actress when you grow as a person. The first essential 
for an actress is to seem human. 

I was born on September 20, 1934, in Rome, Italy, as Sophia Scicolone. 
I have one sister, Maria, four years younger than I am, and we are 
very close. She is smaller than I am, and plumper, and has a good sense 
of humor. As a child, she was always getting sick; she had every ill- 
ness. I was always very healthy. My parents never married. My father 
is a construction engineer. Before I was born, my mother won a contest 
in Naples as a look-alike for Greta Garbo, and M-G-M asked her to 
come to America, but my grandfather would not let her come. She 
played the piano very well, but she never performed in public, because 
she was afraid of going on the stage. She and my sister and I lived with 
my grandparents in a small town, Pozzuoli, a few miles from Naples. 
My mother dreamed of my someday becoming an actress, but she was 
also afraid for me, because it is difficult for an actress to have a private 
life, and the men are always around you. But the tendency of people in 
a small town is to see everything small, and my mother, who had come 
from Rome, felt confined, so I felt confined. Sometimes my mother tells 
me now that she sees herself through me; everything I've done she 
wanted to do. When she goes to see one of my pictures, she doesn't see 
anything the first time. The second time, she recognizes me. The third 
time, she begins to understand the picture. 



I wouldn't change a thing I've done in my life. I was a very happy 
child. Not a thing troubled me. I enjoyed anything and everything. I 
had fun. I didn't worry. I am shier now than I was as a girl. Every 
Sunday after church, I went to the movies with my Aunt Dora, my 
mother's younger sister, who worked as a typist. She is totally, ex- 
clusively enthusiastic about my career and my work, without the slight- 
est reserve. When she writes letters to me now, she writes on the 
envelope, "To the most distinguished and refined actress Sophia 
Loren." The first movie I saw, at the age of four, was an American 
film of "The Picture of Dorian Gray/' with Kurd Hatfield, Angela 
Lansbury, and George Sanders. Next, I saw a film with Yvonne de- 
Carlo, whom I adored. After I saw Tyrone Power in "The Mark of 
Zorro," I went back to see it over and over again. I would go the first 
thing in the morning and stay through the last showing at night. There 
was always something magic to me about movies. I couldn't get over 
the way it was: on the wall, persons suddenly started to live. For years, 
I always used to look where the projector was, to see where the people 
came from. As a child, I was placid and optimistic and good-natured. 
I attended the Scuole Elementari for five years and the Scuole Magis- 
trali for five years, and would have needed two more years to be a 
schoolteacher. By the time I was nine, I was quite grown-up. I 
started to have my own thoughts. I always wanted what I have now. 
I am quite satisfied. If I had stayed in Pozzuoli, I would have been a 
teacher or I would have been a housewife, with six children. I am not 
sorry I left. I wanted a career and also a husband. Money doesn't count 
very much no\y, but I have it. I have beautiful homes: a country house 
on the Biirgenstock, near Lucerne; an apartment in Rome, where my 
husband, Carlo Ponti, the movie producer, has his office; and a big 
house at Marino, in the country near Rome, where we are surrounded 
by olive trees. This house was built in the eighteenth century by a 
cardinal, and there are beautiful frescoes on the walls. 

When I was fourteen, I entered a beauty contest for the selection 
of the "Queen of the Sea" of Naples and her twelve "Princesses of the 
Sea." There were three hundred and twenty contestants. I won second 
place and became one of the Princesses. The audience didn't like the 
girl who was chosen to be Queen, and when they don't like something 
in Naples, they get really excited; they threw things at her and 
shouted insults. After the contest, I went to a restaurant with my 



mother and ate pizza. I have always had a good appetite. Sometimes 
now I have days when I am nervous and don't eat at all, but most of 
the time I have a large breakfast two eggs and bacon, bread and 
butter, orange juice, and coffee and, for lunch, tuna salad with ham 
and bologna; and then a large Italian dinner. My prize for winning 
second place in the beauty contest was twenty-five thousand lire, and 
also some new wallpaper for my room. I still have that wallpaper in my 
room in my grandfather's house; it's white, with a pattern of big green 
leaves. I was also awarded two big enlargements of my photograph. I 
took these and the money and went with my mother to Rome. We 
had talked for years about doing it and now we did it. 

In Rome, we stayed with relatives for the first three months, and 
went almost immediately to the big movie studio Cinecitt&, where 
they were making "Quo Vadis," because we had heard that they were 
hiring many extras. A production manager accepted us, and later the 
director Mervyn LeRoy saw me and asked me if I spoke English. I 
said yes, of course. I had learned some English in school and also from 
the G.Ls when the Allies liberated Naples. So Mother and I both 
worked as extras in a crowd scene. We worked for one night, 
all night long, and went home at five o'clock in the morning with 
thirty-two dollars. We were so happy. It was the beginning of a dream 
coming true. Then my sister became ill in Naples, and Mother had to 
leave me and go back. I registered with an agency to do modelling 
and got some jobs posing for photographs for Italian comic-strip maga- 
zines. These Italian comics are called "fumetti," or "little smokes," and 
have novels illustrated by photographs, with the words coming out of 
the characters' mouths inside balloons. After two months, I entered the 
Miss Rome Beauty Contest of 1950. I did not win the contest, but I 
met Carlo Ponti, who was already a successful producer, and who is 
now my husband. He was a judge in the contest. He asked me to come 
to the judges' table, and invited me to come and see him in his office. 
I was very skinny and my hair was very, very short. I went to see him 
wearing a red dress with white dots that I had borrowed from a friend, 
because I did not have a good dress of my own. I made a screen test, 
and Carlo told me I did not photograph well and could never be an 
actress, so I left. But now I was known. My photographs were appear- 
ing in the fumettL Photographers saw me on the street and stopped 
me. They are like that in Italy. Producers began to call me up and 
offer me little parts in movies. So I started. 



In 1952, 1 took the name Loren, because it sounded melodious, 
and would be easier to remember and easier to pronounce than Scico- 
lone. My first real part, in 1952, was as a swimmer in an Italian movie 
called "Africa Sotto i Mari," and my first leading role, in 1953, was as 
Ai'da in "Aida," for which Renata Tebaldi did the singing. After that, 
Carlo offered me a four-year contract with him, and I signed. We were 
married in Mexico in September, 1957. From the start, Carlo was dif- 
ferent from all the other producers; he knew how to help me in every- 
thing. I was very fortunate to find a man like Carlo, who knows how 
to bring out what I have inside me. He has always made me under- 
stand. He never lectures. With him, I feel much more rational. When 
I first came to Rome, I was really an irrational Neapolitan kid. I was 
making mistakes in my life and my work, doing everything on instinct 
and doing everything wrong. I know now how wrong it all was. I 
learned so much from Carlo about acting and how to act. The only 
time I feel really tranquil and really complete is when I'm acting. I 
hide myself behind the character I play. It is very difficult when you 
are not cultivated and not educated enough to know what you are in- 
side. At the age of eighteen, I did not know what I was inside. I went to 
a dramatic school for three months in 1952 and learned a little bit 
about walking and dancing, but after that I learned by myself. Most of 
all, I learned from Carlo. 

I am scared to death of a live audience. When I appeared on "The 
Ed Sullivan Show" on television, I was terribly afraid. I don't feel 
prepared spiritually to face the public. But I am always happy when 
I am acting. Then I can do all the things I am afraid to do or cannot 
do in my real life. I had always wanted to be a nun, and some 
years ago I was offered the role of Mother Cabrini, the saint of immi- 
grants in America, but the film was never made. Also, I had always 
wanted a daughter, and in "Two Women" I played the mother of a 
young girl and I really felt she was my daughter. I tried to understand 
how the character I played the peasant mother would feel. The 
movie was made on location in a part of the countryside between 
Rome and Naples that is called Ciociaria a name that comes from 
"cioce" a special kind of peasant shoes. It is very beautiful country, 
picturesque and full of color. The most luxurious plantations alter- 
nate with stony areas. Its people seem harsh and uncommunicative, 
and they are of fiery character, but they are very frank, sincere, and 
reliable when you get close to them. I observed the peasant women of 



the region very carefully and tried to imitate their gestures and man- 
nerisms. I hate to hear actors say things like "When I play a king, I 
become a king," because to me this is really phony talk. You feel what 
the character you play feels, but not completely. You never lose con- 
trol. When you kiss on the screen, you don't really kiss. 

I am good-natured when I work, and I do not mind working very 
hard. I do a lot of dubbing for my pictures. For example, I dubbed 
my own English for "Two Women," which was made in Italian. When 
you dub, you do not have as much feeling as you had when the movie 
was originally shot, and it is hard work. After I have been dubbing, 
I eat and then go to bed right away, because it is so tiring. I never 
rehearse a part in front of a mirror. It is phony, I think, to do that. 
I want to get it the way it should be when I am on the set, in front of 
the camera. Before I start to work on a part, I read the script, but 
when shooting starts, I like improvisation right on the set. Even when 
I'm not consciously thinking about a part, I'm really thinking about 
it all the time. When I get to the set, I sometimes know suddenly what 
I will do. I didn't rehearse at all for "Two Women." I get frightened 
when people watch me, but as soon as the camera starts to run, I feel 
protected, because I feel that everybody has his own work to do and 
is not looking at me. In public, when I am in a joking mood, I do not 
mind if people stare at me; I can enjoy it. I know they look because 
they are interested, and I try to imagine what they are thinking. 

Everything about my work is very tiring, but also it is very fascinat- 
ing. You always learn new things. I learned many things working with 
Cary Grant in the movie "Houseboat." He has such tremendous con- 
centration. Many actors do not have the courage to stand still. They 
do not know how to look you in the eye. I often want to tell them 
especially the new, young actors "Please look at me." Cary Grant 
knows how to concentrate, how to look directly at you, but always with 
great relaxation. It is very important for an actor or an actress to 
look around at everything and everyone and never to forget about real 



Perfectionism is a terrible burden.' It's a drive I wish 
I didn't have. 

1 was born on July 18, 1911, in London, Ontario, the youngest of five 
children three boys and two girls. My great-grandfather was the first 
Bishop of Huron. The house I was born in was the same house my 
father was born in. One of my sisters lives there now. We were fairly 
prosperous. I was thirteen years younger than the next-youngest child 
in our family, and I was alone a lot as a child. My loneliness and the 
whole business of pretending led me into acting, which I decided to do 
at the age of six or seven. I was sent away to an Ottawa day school, 
where I was the only boarder, when I was seven, and then I went to 
Bishop Ridley College, a Canadian preparatory school, where I played 
football, hockey, and cricket, and boxed. Nevertheless, I was miserable 
at school. I was interested in poetry and drawing, and I was physically 
the smallest boy in the school, and these things added to my feeling of 
loneliness and isolation and homesickness. When I was ten, I put on an 
impromptu production of "The Green Goddess." I played George 
Arliss's part and loved it. I was my own audience in those days. It was 
pure living in a dream world, which was much richer, much gayer, and 
much more delightful than the world I really lived in. It pulled me out 



of myself, and I didn't care much for myself anyway. My father had a 
wonderful voice and a wonderful build. If the Almighty had given me 
his gifts in addition to my own, I might have done more as an actor. 
My mother was a lovely woman. My father's sister once said about 
her and I had it engraved on her tombstone "Her entrance into a 
room was as though another candle had been lighted." Both my par- 
ents were great theatregoers and travellers. At fifteen, I was taken to 
London, England, for the first time, and saw plays there, all of which 
fed the fire in me. 

In 1930, at McGill University, where I was studying law, I caught 
a kidney punch while boxing, and got a chill at the same time, with 
the result that I developed a cold in my kidneys. My doctor had a 
friend playing in the National Theatre Stock Company in Washington, 
and while I was convalescing, the doctor and 1 drove there. I wasn't go- 
ing to pass my examinations anyway. The friend introduced me to the 
director, and I joined the company, at a salary of fifteen dollars a week. 
I played my first professional role, a newspaper boy in "Up Pops the 
Devil," at the age of nineteen. Six weeks and three bit parts later, I 
went home and told my family I wanted to give up law and go into the 
theatre and become an actor. I felt in my heart that acting would 
help me realize that wonderful line "Almighty God ... So may we 
live ... to catch the music to which this world is set by Thee." When 
my family realized that I was determined, they felt I ought to have the 
benefit of the best possible training, so I came to New York and en- 
rolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where I stayed for 
two years 1932 and 1933. You may not learn how to act in a school, 
but you do learn a number of useful things, including vocal exercises 
such as "She left the web, she left the loom, she made three paces 
through the room," and "A wise old owl lived in an oak; the more he 
saw the less he spoke; the less he spoke the more he heard; why can't 
we all be like that bird?" When I left the Academy, I wrote to the 
administrative director, the late Charles Jehlinger, telling him how 
much the experience of studying there had meant to me. He wrote 
back and told me, "What you need is increased and never-ending ex- 
perience in life." He was a great man. In 1934, I made my tlfbut on 
the New York stage, playing a janitor in "Hipper's Holiday." Then I 
worked in the Barter Theatre, and in 1935 I got a chance to audition 
for the job of assistant stage manager and understudy in the national 



company of "Three Men on a Horse." In the worst tradition of Holly- 
wood films about the theatre, I was given the leading role of Erwin, 
which I played for nearly two seasons on tour. I worked with George 
Abbott, a real, thoroughgoing professional, when I played in "Three 
Men on a Horse" and "Boy Meets Girl" on tour, and then in "Room 
Service," on Broadway. 

My first marriage was made when I was terribly young, and it was a 
failure from the start. I'm married now to the actress Jessica Tandy. 
My wife and I have played together in several stage productions, in- 
cluding "The Fourposter," in which we played on Broadway for two 
seasons and six hundred and thirty-two performances. We've been in 
movies together, in one of which, "The Green Years," I played Jessie's 
father. We had a television series for a while, called "The Mar- 
riage," and we've been in a number of television plays, including 
"The Moon and Sixpence." If a husband and wife work together, it 
can make life better for both of them. 

After you've been in about fifteen movies, as I have "Lifeboat," 
"Brute Force," "The Seventh Cross," and others and directed six 
Broadway productions, and written screen treatments for movies, which 
I have also done, you develop too many ideas about acting. Most of us 
are a little pathetic in our assumptions of artistry. Actors don't often 
fulfill their obligations as artists, or transmit their experience in a form 
that is clear to the audience. Acting can be an art, but it very rarely is. 
An actor's instrument is himself. To have a responsive body and a 
responsive voice requires a great deal of physical and emotional dis- 
cipline. Your pores must constantly be open, to soak up what you later 
give out. The best absorbers are the best emitters. There's a great 
danger in trying to perfect detail. There are times when I feel I have 
the soul of a filing clerk. Writers are the luckiest of all artists; they 
have the greatest degree of independence. I used to write poetry. After 
I made "The Seventh Cross/' for M-G-M, in the early forties, I 
went thirteen months without working; during that time I dis- 
covered some of the pleasures of writing. I wrote some short stories, 
sold a story to R.K.O., and wrote a screen treatment of "Rope" for 
Alfred Hitchcock, which he directed, and which his company pro- 
duced. For a long time, I've been attracted to paintings, and I built 
up quite a distinguished collection, which I later sold an early Pi- 
casso, two Modiglianis, a Renoir still-life, two Vlamincks, and a Mary 



Gassatt "Mother and Child." I think there is a strong relationship 
between painting and'acting. When I'm building a role, I start with a 
series of mental pictures, and feel, This should have this shape, like a 

There are two legitimate ways of approaching acting- Jessie's way, 
which is to start with what is inside yourself and go to the outside, and 
my way, which is working from the outside to the inside. I've learned 
that you need endless patience in working with actors, especially if 
you're directing them. Some of them seem to work so slowly. Then 
suddenly they begin to bloom. As an actor, you have to learn what 
kind of roles you can do. I took a bash at Hamlet in 1949. I found that 
I wasn't equipped to play him. I read Salvador de Madariaga's book 
about Hamlet as the poetic Hamlet, and that gave me an image to 
hold on to. What I learned is that to play Shakespeare well you should 
start as a young actor, doing small parts at first, giving yourself time 
to benefit from the growing process. The actor makes no profound 
contribution to society. He reveals a moment of truth, poetry, humor. 
God knows we're short on those things, but the actor's contribution 
isn't very much. And it isn't anything at all without the spark of 
talent. That's God-given and bloody rare, and even that doesn't 
amount to much without education, intelligence, and experience. A lot 
of acting is drudgery, and a lot of it is so dull: learning to put on 
makeup, learning to control your breath, learning not to let your face 
go to pieces. To act, you must have a sense of truth and some degree 
of dedication. 

The first time I look over a play, I respond to the situations and to 
the characters as they're caught in the situations. Later on, I begin to 
see what may have to be erased. I always go through a process of col- 
lecting far more material than I can use. Then I try to retain what is 
essential. Intellection is important as a process of getting the best out 
of yourself. Once I get into a part, I find myself thinking about it all 
the time. It can become a kind of nightmare. Actors have no social life. 
We're constantly working. To go on being an actor, you need sheer 
animal energy. If you can't restock your energy, you have to hide your 
lack of it. Like getting above a cold. You can't have a cold onstage. 
When I'm working, I look forward all day long to that one drink be- 
fore dinner. I don't want to talk then. Nor do I want to talk at all for 
fifteen minutes before going to sleep, or at breakfast. Jessie and I have 



a small island in the Bahamas, on which we've built a house. It's our 
retreat, cut off from everybody else. We get there by chartered sea- 
plane, and we have our own electric generator. We need that island. I 
come to life when I hit it and hit that water. After I've finished with a 
play or a television show, I'm desperate to hide out, to get away. Every 
actor has his own way of coming to life again. Going to the island is 

Some actors have a tendency to get absorbed in the details of what 
they do in a part, and that often makes the thing become mechanical. 
I try not to get trapped by the peripheral elements. I try to be guided 
by the questions, "What's basic here? Is it true? Can I make it sim- 
pler?" Olivier tells me there's no such thing as overacting. You can go 
as high as Everest, he says, if you can fill the space. Your own feelings 
are unimportant. You're not in a part to indulge in what you may feel. 
It simply doesn't matter how you feel. It's how the audience feels 
and how the author felt first that count. If you're acting a part, you've 
got to jump in and do it. 



The theatre is like a cathedral I mean a shul. At the 
end of it, therms a cup of hot tea. 

I was born on February 28, 1915, in the Brownsville section of Brook- 
lyn. I am the next-to-the-youngest child of my father's second set of 
children; he had four children by his first wife, spaced three years 
apart, and four children by his second wife, also spaced three years 
apart. All but two of us are boys. One brother is in philanthropic 
work, and my other brothers are in various kinds of manufacturing or 
accounting. My father moved us from Brownsville to the lower 
East Side to Moodus, Connecticut, where he was in charge of a 
kosher slaughterhouse, and then to the Bronx, where he made sacra- 
mental wine. I went to P.S. 188, on the lower East Side, and I gradu- 
ated from Seward Park High School, in Manhattan, My real name is 
Samuel Joel Mostel. The kids in school started calling me Zero, be- 
cause I was always cutting up in class and appeared to be a hopeless 
student. I weigh two hundred and thirty-five pounds now; as a kid, I 
was terribly skinny. When I was seven, I played the part of a Red Cross 
nurse in a school pageant. I loved doing imitations and getting laughs 
from the other kids. My family always frowned on acting. My father, 



who died in 1945, was a very good-natured man, but he never came to 
see me on the stage, or when I worked in night clubs or in movies. 
Being an entertainer of that kind came under the heading of making 
fun of human beings, which is objectionable according to the 
orthodox Jewish religion. Both my parents had great humor. My 
mother was a wit, but never a sentimental one. Once, when some- 
body in our house stepped on our cat's paw, she turned to the cat 
and said sternly, "I told you not to go around barefoot!" For all 
the occupations I chose, my mother had one word: "Bum!" When I 
kept asking my father to give in and come to see me entertain, he 
would say, "I don't want the publicity." 

In school, I found that I was very good at drawing and painting. I've 
never stopped painting. I've always had a studio to go to; even while 
I'm in a play, I try to go every day to my studio, which is now on West 
Twenty-eighth Street. I graduated with a B.A. from C.C.N.Y. in 
1935 and went on to N.Y.U. to study art at night. During the 
day, I went to work, turning sleeves in an overcoat shop belonging 
to one of my brothers-in-law. I quit after four weeks. Then I got on the 
W.P.A., and moved into a ten-by-ten-foot room with another artist. 
The W.P.A. had classes in many branches of art life drawing, 
painting, industrial arts. Most of the good artists were on the project, 
teaching and working. I taught life drawing and painting at the 
Ninety-second Street Y.M.H.A. We gave Artists' Balls, at which I 
would get up and joke and deliver chalk talks. Barney Josephson, who 
was running Caf Society Downtown and Caf Society Uptown at the 
time, heard me at one of the Artists' Balls and, in 1942, hired me to do 
an act at Caf Society Downtown, at a salary of forty dollars a week. 
Then I moved to the Uptown, at a salary of a hundred dollars a week. 
Here I was a big night-club star, and yet when I had a date, all I knew 
to offer was "Let's go for a bite at Rudley's." A year later, I was booked 
into the Martinique at a salary of thirty-seven hundred and fifty dollars 
a week. 

By this time, I knew that I wanted to be an actor. I was a comic. 
Most comics never bother to equip themselves as actors. Most of the 
young comics today have the misconception that if they do a series of 
gags in a certain pose, that's enough. But the best comics are also good 
actors. Chaplin is a wonderful actor. W. C. Fields and Willie Howard 
and Bobby Clark were real actors, and so are Bert Lahr and Joey 



Adams and Shelley Berman. In France, the word "comedieri* actually 
means both "comedian" and "actor." I wanted to play in the classic 
comic literature. I wanted to act in the plays of Moliere, the daddy of 
all comic invention. I felt that I had to study everything if I wanted to 
act. I felt that an actor was better if he knew what was going on, if he 
was aware of the literary stage tradition. I wanted to know how to do 
Lear and Toby Belch and Falstaff. I had read all of Shaw and Moliere 
by the time I was nineteen. In college, when my English professor was 
writing "You can't beat Thomas Wolfe" on the blackboard, I was 
reading "Ulysses" out loud in an alcove with other rebels. Years after- 
wards, when I was going to play Leopold Bloom in the Off Broadway 
production of "Ulysses in Nighttown," I found that I knew whole sec- 
tions of it by heart. I was also fascinated by Moli&re in college, and 
when I read "The Miser" and "The Imaginary Invalid" and "The 
Bourgeois Gentleman," I automatically imagined what funny things 
you could do at this point or that point while playing the parts. I 
wasn't even thinking of acting then myself, though. In 1949, I went up 
to the Brattle Theatre, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and played Argan 
in my own adaptation of "The Imaginary Invalid." A couple of years 
later, I went back there and played Sganarelle in "The Doctor in Spite 
of Himself." The part of Argan offers the finest of comic material. I'd 
never worked in a play until then, and I found it exciting, playing 
with an ensemble and in a part that offered the opportunity for me to 
do so much acting, comedy, singing, and dancing, as well as creating a 
complete character. The part utilized what I felt I had. And I didn't 
have to work with a microphone or wear a blue suit and a tie. Bloom in 
"Ulysses in Nighttown" was another very rich part, and I enjoyed 
playing it. I wish I could play in "The Imaginary Invalid" on Broad- 
way, but producers go wild when they hear the name Moli&re. They 
immediately start figuring out the cost of the costumes. 

I was married in 1944 to the former Kathryn Harkins, who was a 
Rockette and a ballet dancer. We have two children Joshua, who 
was born in 1946, and Tobias, born two years later. Both my sons are 
musical and are good chess players. I was in the Army for a while, 
serving in the infantry at Camp Croft and Fort Meade. Then I played 
all the big night clubs as a comic, was in the Duke Ellington musical 
"Beggar's Holiday," on Broadway, and played the London Palladium 
for three weeks. In the summer, I'd try to go where I could play 



Moliere. In 1950, I moved my family out to Hollywood to live while 
I made some movies. I played in "Panic in the Streets/' directed by 
Elia Kazan, and in "The Enforcer," "Sirocco," and other pictures. I 
took a studio on Santa Monica Boulevard and spent a lot of time 
painting. But I hated Hollywood. Everything about it the people, 
the climate, the business. Everything. My wife hated it. The kids 
hated it. We were all happy to get back to New York. 

I've always been very choosy. I turned down the part of the peddler 
in "Oklahoma!," which the producers wanted to build up for me. The 
idea, they told me, was to get into a musical and make nineteen million 
dollars. I didn't want that. I wanted to be free to act and to paint. I'm 
constantly trying new things in painting. After I've done one thing, I 
go on to try something new. In the early forties, I painted socially 
satiric things, and later on I did more abstract painting. Lately, I've 
been working with a mixture of mediums oils, crayon, pastels. Only a 
monomaniac does the same thing in all the arts. What I do in acting is 
something different. A guy's painting, if it's true, is of himself, always. 
Painting is a much more creative field than acting. You take up an 
empty canvas; you fill it. In acting, you've got something to start with. 
You're not always satisfied with what you put on the blank canvas, and 
here painting is like acting on the stage, you have a chance the next 
day or night to do it over. Painting comes from color, not from draw- 
ing. I'm a colorist. I never stop painting. You can't do it by fits and 
starts. If you paint, you've got to paint every day. Otherwise, the 
simple mixing of the colors becomes a terrific problem. I'm not un- 
usual in wanting to act as well as paint. During the Renaissance, they 
worked at everything jewelry, painting, dam-building, sculpture. 
There's no way of knowing which I need more, painting or acting. It's 
just that I have a need to do both. 

I don't like to do a lot of things you have to do to become a success 
as an actor. I was the same way in painting. I never got into the social 
life of being a painter. When I finally succumbed and got myself an 
agent as a painter, only recently, he died. As an actor or anything else, 
I don't go to ladies' clubs. I'm not willing to make a business out of 
myself. If an actor gets that involved with himself, he's doing photo- 
graphs in the morning, .and then comes the meeting with the publicity 
man, then the session with his psychoanalyst, then the hot lunch at 
Sardi's. If you do a lot of that kind of thing as an actor, you get farther, 



but then you don't have time to paint if you want to go to your studio 
and paint. I'm particular about what I give my time to as an actor. 1 
hate all plays with mothers and fathers in them. If I had to play the 
father of one of those terrible families, I'd flip my lid. I don't like act- 
ing when I have to do John loves Mary. I'm just as antagonistic to an 
Andy Wyeth painting or anything else I don't like: I like to do what I 
like, even if it's a commercial flop. I don't care what the theatre critics 
say. Critics don't know anything about acting. They slaughtered 
"Beggar's Holiday," and it didn't touch me. 

I have an inclination to do wild things in plays. That's why I loved 
playing Bloom in "Ulysses in Nighttown." I started going to the 
Actors' Studio in 1950. The only part of it I like is where you get up 
and act. I like working from time to time at the Studio, but I haven't 
won any certificates for best attendance. I like to be with actors, to 
see what they do. I'm suspicious of ambitious people, though; I'm sus- 
picious of too much conversation. I've worked with all kinds of direc- 
tors. Some of the big-name directors destroy the most wonderful thing 
an actor has. Just because he has power and importance, the destructive 
director tries to bend you to what he calls his sense of production in- 
stead of letting you use your own configuration, your own way of 
merging your own personality with the character you're playing. A 
good director knows how to bring out your talent. One of the 
best directors I've ever worked with is Burgess Meredith, who directed 
me in "Ulysses in Nighttown." He's a wonderful actor himself very 
inventive and very creative so he can do a lot of the things he wants 
you to do on the stage. Sometimes he can make a single little gesture 
when he steps into a part, and it rubs off on you. He sees things a cut 
above realism. He has a conception of what a thing is, what it means. 
He knows how to make use of you as an actor, but always in good 
taste. It's very stimulating. And I don't feel the breath of ambition on 
him, which is always disturbing to an actor. I feel that his concern is 
for the play. Joseph Anthony, who directed me in "Rhinoceros/' is one 
of the most wonderful directors, a guy with a world of patience, who 
knows exactly what you can do. He lets you do what you can do, and 
he's a marvel to work with. A bad director comes to a decision, and it's 
wrong, and what is primarily important to him is to prove that it is 
right The best guide to acting is Bernard Shaw's phrase "the life 
force." When all the elements of art enter into it the distortion, the 



reality, the nai*vet you have the life force. "Ulysses in Night- 
town" is larger than life, and my role in it was more than an adequate 
one. Working on a role like Bloom requires the exercise of your own 
taste in large measure. I played in "Ulysses in Nighttown" on and off 
for two years in New York, London, Paris, and Amsterdam, and never 
got bored; there was always something new to do, something interest- 
ing, something alive. I suppose that because I'm a painter I am auto- 
matically guided in acting by things that influence my painting. When 
I played in "Rhinoceros" and was supposed to turn into a rhinoceros, 
Joseph Anthony at first wanted me to run offstage, stick a horn on my 
forehead, and become a rhinoceros that way. I preferred to do it -all 
in front of the audience. That's a painterly thing to do. 

For me, the greatest actor in history was Raimu. There's never been, 
an American playwright who conveyed a corner of American life the 
way Marcel Pagnol conveyed a corner of French life in his film trilogy 
"Marius," "Fanny," and "C6sar," starring Raimu. Raimu captured life 
for me. He did everything full-scale, without an arid moment and with 
no tricks. The greatest actress was Laurette Taylor. I saw her eleven 
times in "The Glass Menagerie" on Broadway. The great ones just do 
it, and it's never vulgar. 


I had the great advantage of growing up in front of a 
camera. I know just how to turn, just what to show 
on my face, and when to let the other actor have it. A 
movie actor or actress paints with the tiniest brush. 

I was born on March 23, 1908, in San Antonio, Texas. My real name 
is Lucille Le Sueur. I did not meet my father, Thomas Le Sueur, until 
I was an established movie star. My mother had divorced him before 
I was born, and when I was a few weeks old she married Henry 
Cassin, who owned a small vaudeville theatre in Lawton, Oklahoma, 
so I spent my early years in Lawton. At six, I had an accident that kept 
me in bed for a year I stepped on a broken bottle and cut my foot 
so badly that the doctors said I would never walk again and 
when I was eight and a half, we moved to Kansas City, Missouri. My 
childhood is vague to me now. What I mostly remember is that it was 
exhausting. I went to school at St. Agnes Academy, in Kansas City, as 
a day student. When I was nine, my mother and my stepfather sep- 
arated. My mother took over a laundry agency; my older brother, Hal 
Le Sueur, got a job as a soda jerk. I began waiting on tables and doing 
housework at the Academy to pay my tuition. After the sixth grade, I 
went to Rockingham, another private school, where I was the only 
working pupil. The school occupied a fourteen-room house, and I 



cleaned all fourteen rooms and also cooked meals, made beds, and 
washed dishes for thirty boys and girls. When I attended classes, I was 
too tired to absorb what I heard, too tired to learn very much, but I 
was always healthy, and I loved to dance. I learned every dance step 
I could, and I entered one amateur dance competition and won. I 
could do the Charleston and the Black Bottom better than anyone else 
in town. I knew I could beat the other kids, and I did. I knew I was 
born with talent, though I didn't know exactly what it was. After 
getting out of high school, I attended Stephens College, in Columbus, 
Missouri, as a working student, but I gave it up after three months. 
I wanted to take dancing lessons, but I didn't have the money. I got 
a job as a salesgirl in a Kansas City department store, for twelve dollars 
a week. After a quarrel with my mother, I went to Chicago and got a 
job doing one song and one dance at an out-of-the-way cafe, for 
twenty-five dollars a week. Two weeks later, I was dancing in the 
chorus line of the Oriole Terrace Club, in Detroit. From there, I went 
into the chorus of the J. J. Shubert revue "Innocent Eyes/' in New 
York, and then into the chorus of the revue called "The Passing Show 
of 1924." After eight months in that, I was asked by an M-G-M talent 
scout to take a screen test. 

On New Year's Day, 1925, I left for Hollywood to begin working 
for M-G-M, at seventy-five dollars a week. When I signed my contract, 
I thought that M-G-M wanted me because I could dance. Now I know 
that right from the start I was considered promising as an actress. I 
hardly had a chance to know what I was doing. My first role was as a 
chorus girl covered with imitation snow in "Pretty Ladies," in 1925. 
Dancing roles in movies were easy for me, even though I had never 
made the front line of the chorus on the stage. At that time, movies 
were still silents. We would work late at night, and on Sundays, if nec- 
essary, and it would take us all of four weeks to make a movie. I 
danced in almost every role. From the very first, it was important to me 
to become known as a movie star, to show the people back home in 
Kansas City what I really was. They had never believed in my talent. 
In "Sally, Irene, and Mary," which was made in 1925, I played the 
role of Irene, a dancer, and it was then that the studio changed my 
name to Joan Crawford. Among my other early films were "Old 
Clothes," with Jackie Coogan, and "The Only Thing," with Eleanor 
Boardman, and in 1926 I was Harry Langdon's leading lady in 



"Tramp, Tramp, Tramp," and then played in "Paris," with Charles 
Ray. I was still a teen-ager, and even though I still wanted to be 
a star, I was really dancing to please my leading man and my 
director and my producer. I would do any kind of part they asked me 
to. I was working so hard I didn't have time for anything else. I 
played ingenue roles in "The Unknown," with Lon Chaney; "Twelve 
Miles Out," with John Gilbert; "West Point," with William Haines; 
and "Across to Singapore," with Ramon Novarro. It was work I 
thrived on and loved. In 1928, 1 was still thinking that dancing was my 
inborn talent. When I played in "Our Dancing Daughters" that year, 
and appeared dancing on a table, after coming out of a huge cake, I 
became known as a movie star, and my salary was raised to five hun- 
dred dollars a week. 

The next year, 1929, I danced in "Our Modern Maidens," with 
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and I also danced in "Hollywood Revue of 
'29." It was between these assignments that I first had a chance to look 
around me and see what acting was. I admired Eleanor Boardman, and 
I watched Greta Garbo on her sets every chance I could get. I grew 
determined to become a dramatic actress. I started nagging Louis B. 
Mayer and Irving Thalberg to cast me in more and more dramatic 
roles. I would hang around the studio and get my hands on the new 
scripts, then take them home with me to read, and decide on the role I 
wanted. I relied on my instinct in choosing what was right for me, 
and my instinct rarely let me down. After deciding that I wanted a 
certain role, I got up and went after it. The written words weren't too 
important. I knew that if certain words or phrases stuck in my throat, 
I could call a little conference right on the set and have them changed 
to suit me better. I would go off in a corner with the director and the 
leading man, and together we would decide what we wanted the writer 
to change. I knew that the writer would be grateful to me. His words 
were dead words. They were brought to life by me. 

I was at M-G-M for seventeen years. In the thirties, I was considered 
one of the ten biggest money-making stars for six straight years. Once 
I'd started on a role, it became like a horse race. I couldn't wait to go 
on. I worked hard on my preparations. If the script had been based on 
a book, I'd go back and read the book. I have almost total recall and 
a vivid imagination. I usually chose my own writers, producer, and 
director I still do and I'd enter them in the race. Once in a role, 



I eliminated myself completely. I became the character I played. I 
portrayed so many girls and women who went from rags to riches that 
L. B. Mayer thought I represented Cinderella to the public. My 
audience was composed mostly of women. I began to beg to play 
bitches, so I got that kind of part, and liked it. I've known so many 
bitches, who never cared about the feelings of other people as long as 
they could get their own way. They just never gave a hoot how many 
people they rode over and hurt. Then I'd play another kind of role, 
and it was exciting to become the queen bee again. I've made about 
seventy-five pictures, and I remember every one of my important roles 
the way I remember a part of my life, because at the time I did them 
I was the role and it was my life, for twenty-four hours a day. When 
I was a teen-ager, comedy was the most difficult thing for me to do, and 
it still is. But dramatic roles are easy for me. In 1916, I won an Oscar 
for my role in "Mildred Pierce," and it was the easiest thing I've ever 
done. I've always drawn on myself only. That's one of the reasons no- 
body has ever been able to imitate me. And nobody can duplicate 
anything I've done. You always see impersonations of Katharine Hep- 
burn and Marilyn Monroe, but no one can imitate me. 

The pictures I loved more than any others I've ever made were the 
films with Clark Gable "Possessed" and "Chained," among others 
and "Mildred Pierce" and "Humoresque." The picture and espe- 
cially the opening that I keep trying to forget is "Rain," in which I 
played Sadie Thompson. I did it in 1932, and I didn't understand that 
role then. If I were to do it now, I would understand it much better. 
Today, I would start my characterization from the inside. For the most 
part, though, the roles I've played have been right for me, even if not 
all my pictures have been successful. In the old days, we seldom had a 
single rehearsal. Our dream was to have two whole weeks just for a 
rehearsal period. Before going into a picture, I'd have a talk with 
Adrian, my costume designer, and then I'd have a talk with the direc- 
tor and the leading man. I'd work on getting the clothes fitted, and my 
wardrobe tested and just right, and the dialogue changed to suit me. 
When I make a picture today, it's still the same; there are so many 
people involved that I have to please the co-star, the cameraman, the 
director. And I love to please them. Sometimes, in a difficult scene, 
when I have words I simply can't say, I call in the director or the dia- 
logue director and I suggest just walking through the scene not really 


doing anything, just indicating what I can do. That helps in getting 
the dialogue set. 

When we actually start to shoot, I ask for one minute by myself. 
Then I go off into a corner and bring up the exact feeling I want to 
show. It can be tears, hysteria, laughter anything. I need just one 
minute, and I can do it as high as the director wants it. If it feels true, 
and if techniques don't get in your way, it's right. Techniques grow 
with experience. Developing techniques is not like getting a whole new 
wardrobe; it's not planned. For me, a role isn't something you daub on 
and take off, like makeup. At the end of a day, I leave the part locked 
inside me. Only the makeup and the wardrobe are left at the studio. 
When I get home, I don't discuss my roles with my four adopted 
children. I have one son, Christopher, aged nineteen, and three 
daughters, Christina, aged twenty-two, and Cynthia and Cathy, 
fourteen-year-old twins. Around the age of ten, each of my children 
began to be proud of me. Before that, whenever we went to the movies 
to see me in an unhappy role, they would cry and wail, but I would 
say to them, "Look, darling, I'm right here/' I'd hold their hands, and 
it would be all right. 

A true actress is a woman who can portray a true character honestly 
and with pure emotion, and weave her way into the hearts of her 
audience and make them understand the character. The emotion must 
be honest and pure. I've learned about life from writers and directors, 
but mostly from myself. Writers give their words to paper. I give life 
to their words. I act more for myself than for others. But I never refer 
to a character I'm playing as "me." It's "her." Except for one picture 
I made in 1951, a cheap and corny one called "This Woman Is Dan- 
gerous," I've revelled in everything I've ever done. Acting is stimulat- 
ing. It's exciting. It's competitive. It's challenging. It can be electrify- 
ing. It doesn't matter if the character is Mary Turner, in "Paid," or 
Mildred Pierce, I mold it, perfect it. A good actress can bring her 
audiences into her world and permit them to throw off their cares and 
fears temporarily. 

My instinct in choosing the right part has failed me very seldom. In 
something called "Great Day," I was supposed to be a little Southern 
girl, digging her toe in the sand. Well, I'm a big gal I'm only five feet 
four and a half, but I have very wide shoulders, and they give people 
the impression that I'm big. We had been shooting for ten or eleven 



days, and each day I began to feel more wrong for the part. I sought 
out L. B. Mayer and pleaded with him to look at the rushes with Thai- 
berg and to take me out of the movie. I cried, and told him that I was 
a big dame and I couldn't, for the life of me, dig my bare toe in the 
sand. After ten or eleven days of rushes, they called the whole thing 
off, with $280,000 still sitting on the shelf. They told me to stay home, 
and I've never been sorry. I was just too big for the part. I'm so broad 
I would look dumpy if I put on a little weight. My measurements have 
changed very little since I started acting. I learned to stand tall right at 
the start, and I've always exercised to look tall. Dancing did a lot for 
me, giving me more freedom of body movement and more grace. If an 
actress has no talent, she may just as well quit before she begins. Every 
actress must have inborn talent. 

In June of 1929, I was married to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and we 
worked with each other to improve our acting. We were divorced in 
1933, and two years later I married Franchot Tone, and began to 
think seriously about going on the stage. I began to learn about things 
like the Moscow Art Theatre. We built a theatre in back of our house, 
in Brentwood, where we rehearsed and co-starred in radio perform- 
ances of several adaptations of movies. We studied singing, too. I 
started to study opera, and continued with it after our divorce, in 
1939. In July, 1942, 1 was married to Phillip Terry while I was making 
my last M-G-M picture under contract, "Above Suspicion," and we 
were divorced after two years. I am a contralto, and for seven years I 
thought I might become an opera singer. In opera, the whole body 
moves and has a rhythm to it. It can contribute to acting a role. Every 
actress should take some singing and dancing lessons. The opera lessons 
gave me better control over my voice. Many beautiful actresses are 
spoiled because they have no control over their voices. I've always 
been terrified of the stage and of live audiences, and I still am. Some- 
times when I go backstage to pick up Ethel Merman or Mary Martin 
for supper and have to wait for her to dress, I go out on the stage 
and, remembering her lines, I begin to imagine myself in her role and 
start speaking her lines. Then, suddenly, I see all the empty seats 
and imagine how it would be to see that many faces instead, and I 
just get sick. When my fourth husband, the late Alfred N. Steele, who 
was chairman of the board of the Pepsi-Cola Company, started taking 
me with him on business trips for Pepsi-Cola to make promotional 



appearances, I was terrified. Once, in Chicago, I was asked to appear 
before the food editors of every publication in the city and answer 
hundreds of questions. The only way I could answer in front of them 
all was to have the questions submitted on cards first. Acting in front 
of movie crews is different. You know they are friends, part of the 
family, and are watching out for your best interests. Now, after work- 
ing for Pepsi-Cola for several years, making appearances on my own, 
it feels like a family, too. I prepare for each appearance the way I do 
for a movie role. It's all part of acting. Acting is the greatest of all the 
arts. I wish I had five hundred years to study it. 



You must never lose your sense of fun, even if you're 
doing a very serious part. 

I was born on March 13, 1929, in the heart of Paris. My father, Thomas 
Davion, a timber importer, is French, and my mother is English. I 
have one brother, Jack, a year and ten months younger than I am, who 
works as an engineer for Rolls-Royce in Montreal. My family moved 
to London when I was three. We lived in a lovely town house in St. 
John's Wood, near Lord's Cricket Ground, where actors go to 
watch the matches when they're out of work. I remember sounds 
and shapes in Paris from my first three years there, and I still have a 
tremendous nostalgic feeling for it. I always had a yen to act, as far 
back as I can remember, but I never used to say anything about it. 
Acting was something I just somehow felt that I could do. As a child, 
I could tell stories. I could make people laugh. I could romp about, 
pretending to be somebody else, pretending to be something else. It 
was always great fun. I was good at movement and dancing. At the age 
of two or three, I would dance for what seemed to me like hours at a 



time. I have always loved music. I once started taking piano lessons, 
but I was too lazy to keep it up. My family hoped that I might become 
a lawyer or a doctor. I went to kindergarten in Hampstead, where I 
knitted a long pink scarf, and after that to a prep school, Hall School, 
where I had my first part in a play. It was all about spies and spying, 
and I played Nitro Glycerinsky, wearing a slouch hat and an overcoat 
with the collar turned up. When I was thirteen, I was sent away to 
boarding school the Cheltenham School, in Gloucestershire. It was 
like any other public school, where your life is miserable, where the 
discipline is unbelievable, where everything around you does irrep- 
arable damage. The school was very tough, very hard. We worked 
long hours, and the prefects were allowed to beat the younger boys. 
The idea is that it supposedly stiffens your backbone. Boys who go 
there usually want to enter the Army. You must pass a stiff exam to get 
into the school. I chose Cheltenham myself, I suppose, because the war 
was on and I was very excited by it all. I discovered my mistake the 
first day I was there. 

It was while I was at Cheltenham that I saw my first play, other than 
pantomimes I was taken to as a child. One of the masters took us to a 
local theatre to see a touring production of "Othello," with Frederick 
Valk, a famous German actor, as Othello, and with Bernard Miles as 
lago and Hermione Hannen as Desdemona. I was terribly impressed. 
Valk could hardly speak English, but he had such a brilliant and im- 
posing presence. And he had a magnificent voice. He could speak al- 
most in a whisper, and one could hear him in the back of the theatre; 
his voice had fantastic resonance. He was a thick, big, ugly man but a 
marvellous, marvellous actor. I started going to movies when I was 
about ten. I grew up on American movies. The first one I saw, I be- 
lieve, was "Modern Times." I was moved to laughter by "Modern 
Times," but I was also terrified by it. To me, Charles Chaplin is the 
finest artist there ever was. He's so moving and so beautiful to watch. 
In a personal way, I feel a certain part of London every time I see 
him I feel Kennington, where he was born. I've read all the books 
on him there are. I understand his sort of comedy the essence of 
his humor, his outlook on the whole thing. I had a sort of school- 
boy crush on Clark Gable. To me, he was the epitome of masculinity, 
charm, and roguishness. I saw "Gone with the Wind" four or five 
times. I was also mad about Edward G. Robinson, Alan Ladd, and 



James Cagney. I loved the gangster and Western films. I still think 
a good Western film is the best entertainment. At Cheltenham, I 
was very good at Rugby, and one year I broke both my ankles play- 
ing it. I never did any acting at public school, and I never talked 
about acting. It was considered sissy. I was in school during most 
of the war. I'd go home to London on vacations. One night when I was 
at home, we decided not to go to the shelter, and a bomb hit the house 
right next door to ours. I was in bed. I fell two floors down in my bed, 
and was pinned under debris. It took them three hours to dig me out, 
but I came off with only a broken wrist and a few bruises. My parents 
and my brother were cut by glass. I stayed at Cheltenham for two and a 
half years; then my father got into financial difficulties, because of the 
effect of the war on his business, and I was hauled out of school. I 
didn't want to go to one of the country schools. I'm not a snob, and 
wasn't then; it was just that I was becoming independent. I was sixteen, 
and I wanted to earn my own way. I decided I wanted to be a foreign 
correspondent, so I took a job as an office boy with Hulton Publica- 
tions, Ltd., which published weekly periodicals. My main function 
was to run out for coffee. After six months of this sort of thing, I 
began to realize that one had to work one's way up. I decided to apply 
for admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. I never sat down 
and thought specifically, I'm going to become an actor. It was more 
that I was drawn to anything make-believe and theatrical. I wish now 
that I'd gone to a university, but at sixteen I just felt that I wanted to 
get out into the world. For my R.A.D.A. audition, I gave Shylock's 
"Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech from "The Merchant of Venice." I was 
superb as only a young person can be, I suppose. I gave it all the guns 
I had. I raved. I moved myself to tears. And I was accepted. I followed 
what is a more or less standard pattern for young actors. You start off 
with no knowledge just raw talent and the consciousness of acting. 
Then you become terribly aware of all your thoughts of what to do 
with yourself, and so on at which point you're learning your tech- 
nique the hard way. Then, after you've got a certain amount under 
your belt, you lose confidence, and you feel that you're being awful and 
that the talent isn't coming out. And then a day arrives when every- 
thing clicks into place, and you have the added element of experience 
behind you. Some actors never reach the fourth stage. Some never reach 
the third stage. And some never reach the second. I spent quite a bit of 



time in the third stage. My teachers told me things like "You never 
stand still when you're listening onstage." So I became conscious of 
being very bad. Eventually, I was able to assemble everything and work 
at it. The goal is quite simple: to get onstage and to create by visible 
and audible means a character that is not yourself and that will hold 
and move an audience. 

A lot of actors have a pretty smile and are simpatico in a certain way. 
They have perhaps a five-year lease on life in acting. The great actors 
are quite another matter. Paul Scofield is the finest young English 
actor at this moment. Laurence Olivier has everything. He has enor- 
mous imagination and talent. He is so constructed, physically, that he 
is neither tall nor short, neither handsome nor unhandsome, neither 
fat nor thin, so he can be fat or thin, handsome or unhandsome, tall or 
short, or whatever the part calls for. He has a wonderful voice, which 
he has worked on. He has stamina. He can play a heroic character, and 
he's one of the few actors who can. He can portray a character with 
tremendous sweep and magnificence. He wants a theatre with life in 
it, and he cares about its modern as well as its classical aspects. He's al- 
ways commissioning writers to write plays. He's willing to gamble by 
taking a part in a modern play. He's in the theatre because the theatre, 
in all its aspects, is to him the most important thing in life. Everything 
that has to do with the theatre the lighting, the scenery, the makeup 
is fascinating to him, just because it does have to do with theatre. 
He doesn't use the theatre as a means of making money. He is a 
completely dedicated man. 

I was at R.A.D.A. for something less than a year and a half. The 
usual stay is about two years. At R.A.D.A., I was a bit of a rogue. I 
didn't really take life too seriously. I'd try to get away with all kinds 
of things by using charm. It was a cover-up, I suppose, for the way I 
felt about some of the people I encountered there. I've always been 
aware of the feelings of those around me, and I was then. I think every 
good actor must be aware. I can't stand people I call unaware, who 
are conscious of nothing and nobody but themselves, who don't respect 
other people's feelings. I'm no saint, but I believe there are two kinds 
of people, aware and unaware, and the same two kinds of actors. 
Awareness makes the difference between actors with a direction in life 
and actors who are interested only in material gain and have no feel- 
ing for the art of acting. With the second kind, it's all a selfish thing. 


Those people usually have no humor, and I don't think an actor with- 
out humor can dig very deep. At the end of each term at R.A.D.A., 
there is a performance for the public, when promising students put on 
excerpts from plays. At the end of my third term, I played Harry, Lord 
Monchensey, in "The Family Reunion," by T. S. Eliot, a verse play 
that is very, very complicated. I didn't know what I was talking about, 
but I did it with my usual bravado. The next day, I heard from the 
Myron Selznick office, which was then an agency. They asked me to 
come in, and when I did, they promised me the world. I was full of 
high hopes. I felt, We're on our way. Then I went back to R.A.D.A. for 
my fourth term. It was right after the end of the war. Everybody, it 
seemed, wanted to become an actor, and there were too many people 
in every class. There were fewer good parts to play, and I had too many 
distractions. Again, I had that powerful feeling of wanting to get out 
into the world. I walked straight out at the beginning of the fourth 
term, right after prayers. There were frantic telephone calls from the 
school the next day. People got on the phone and said, "You should 
stay, at least until you do your public show." But I was too impatient. 
I said, "I'm leaving," and I left. 

After that, the agent who had been interested in me sent me around 
to a lot of auditions, but nothing happened, except that I acted in a 
club theatre called the Q, playing the role of Paris in the pantomime- 
within-the-play in "The Rose Without a Thorn," with Francis L. Sulli- 
van, for two weeks in December of 1947. Then I auditioned for the 
1948 season at Stratford and was accepted, together with Edmund 
Purdom. I carried spears for nine months, and was bored stiff. But I 
learned a lot things like how to find a yardstick for yourself, and 
what is good and what is not good. We also learned the plays of 
Shakespeare, and all that one can learn from watching actors like 
Godfrey Tearle, Ralph Richardson, and Paul Scofield, and Diana 
Wynyard and Margaret Leighton. Tearle was what I call one of the 
best actors in the grand manner. But you can watch only so much. 
That first season, I had two lines in "Othello;" I was the first officer 
in the first act, who says "A messenger from the galleys" and "Here is 
more news." The most terrifying parts are messengers. You come on in 
a rush, out of breath, and set the tone of what is to follow with your 
announcement that the soldiers are approaching. In a way, it's quite a 
responsibility. Or so I told myself when I had those two lines. Between 



seasons, in December, I played in "Toad of Toad Hall/' in the 
parts of Fox, Chief Stoat, Turkey, and Chief Weasel. The second 
season, I played Young Siward in "Macbeth/ 1 I had about six lines, 
fought Macbeth at the end of them, and got killed. They asked me to 
roll down twenty steep steps after I got killed, and I did it, every step, 
just to show how cooperative I was. The third season, in 1952, I played 
Donalbain in "Macbeth" one of Duncan's sons. The other son, 
Malcolm, was played by Laurence Harvey, who has since gone on to 
spectacular activities in films. John Gielgud directed, and he called us 
the wicked brothers. Gielgud is such a marvellous man. He'll change 
a whole scene in five seconds if he thinks of a better way of doing it, 
and you've got to keep right up with him. That production of "Mac- 
beth" had Ralph Richardson in the title role and Margaret Leighton 
as Lady Macbeth. I was impressed by the cast, but after the King is 
murdered, Donalbain says goodbye to his brother and disappears for- 
ever. I felt I couldn't register in a small part. I was a bit frustrated, 
because I wasn't doing much at Stratford at all. My best work that 
season was as understudy at rehearsals to the actor playing Laertes in 
"Hamlet," with Paul Scofield and Claire Bloom. It was a lovely pro- 
duction. I played all the echoes offstage. Every time the Ghost spoke, I 

I spent two very comfortable, closeted years at Stratford, though they 
did include a four-month Australian tour with the company's produc- 
tions of "Much Ado About Nothing," in which I played a page and 
was used mostly to push scenery around, and "Macbeth," in which I 
again played the role of Young Siward. We toured four Australian 
cities Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Sydney. When I was asked 
to come back to Stratford for a third season, I said no, left for London, 
and wrote to a lot of repertory companies for a job. They were all full, 
and I couldn't get in. In 1950, I joined a small repertory company at 
Windsor, opposite Windsor Castle. It's a lovely theatre to work in. It's 
attended by local people, and the Queen usually makes an appearance 
once a year. It's her little baby. It's dead opposite the castle, and she 
can look out the window and see it. The theatre is very old, built of 
stone and wood, and it's a full professional theatre, with an orchestra 
pit and everything. At first, I was taken on for three weeks, at five 
pounds for the first week and ten pounds a week after that. In "The 
Lady's Not for Burning/' I played the juvenile lead, Richard, the 



copying clerk in lave a spiritual love with the daughter of the 
household, and when that was over, I was kept on for the rest of the 
season. I had six very happy months there. I played Albert Strachan, 
the lead, in "Pink String and Sealing Wax/' a murder mystery, and a 
poor young violinist in "Pick-Up Girl/' a sort of social play. 

Next, I auditioned for Laurence Olivier for his own season at the 
St. James in 1951, and was signed by him. I replaced actors who were 
playing Bel Affris in Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra" and Dolabella in 
Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra." It was a marvellous engage- 
ment, with Olivier and Vivien Leigh, who was his wife at the time 
the King and Queen of the Theatre. Olivier would play Antony in 
"Antony and Cleopatra" at a matinee and Caesar in "Caesar and Cleo- 
patra" that evening, with Vivien Leigh playing Cleopatra all the way 
through. As Bel Affris, I ran in and said, "Take heed, Persian. Caesar 
is by this time almost within earshot." I played it with bravado. Olivier 
said, "You're absolutely hopeless. Even if you do nothing but take 
your trousers down onstage, the feeling must be just as big. The gesture 
must have something behind it. When you make a gesture and there's 
no feeling behind it, that is ham acting." I was twenty-two. I've never 
forgotten it. Dolabella is a very good, well-rounded part. He's a young 
chap in Caesar's army who comes in to warn Cleopatra that Caesar is 
coming, and tries to stop her from killing herself. Anthony Quayle, 
who was running a season at Stratford, saw me and made me a very 
nice offer for a season there. Olivier had asked me to go to America 
with the tour of his season's plays, but I told him I wanted to go 
to Stratford, and he said, "Have my blessing." So there I was at 
Stratford again. I played Ferdinand in "The Tempest" and Silvius 
in "As You Like It," but it wasn't a very successful season, and I 
behaved rather badly, because I was bored. In 1953, I went back 
to Windsor for a season, and I did a lot of radio broadcasting, 
which in England is serious acting work. One day, the telephone 
rang at seven in the morning and a voice said, "Larry Olivier 
here." He was making the film "Richard III," producing and di- 
recting as well as acting, and his stand-in was ill. He said, "Would 
you come and play the scenes for me, so that I can look through the 
camera at how it will be?" I spent a marvellous ten days acting Richard 
III for him while he mapped the whole film out. Then I played a small 
part in the film one of those awful messengers again, one of three 



who come in with bad news. After that, I went to Germany and toured 
British Army and R.A.F. and American Army camps there in "Sea- 
gulls over Sorrento," by Hugh Hastings, in which I played a Scots 
sailor. In January, 1954, I played Koch, the student who finds the 
woman dead, in "Crime and Punishment/' in a production put on 
at the Arts Theatre. Later in 1954, I worked with the Ipswich Reper- 
tory Theatre, one of the best such theatres in England, for a few 
weeks. In 1955, I replaced another actor as Ambrose Kemper, the 
artist, in "The Matchmaker" for nine months in London, where 
it was a steady commercial success. Tyrone Guthrie, who directed 
the play, said that my part was one of the dullest, dreariest parts 
any actor could ever hope to play. After London, I opened with 
it in December, 1955, on Broadway and then played it for six 
months on the road. I went along with it all the way. We were with 
it in Hollywood for three weeks. Then I came back to New York. 
I was torn between wanting to make a big success on Broadway 
and wanting to return to London, where I was better known. I 
stayed in New York, as an understudy in "Look Back in Anger," and 
then played Romanoff in "Romanoff and Juliet" for six months on 
tour. We ended the tour in Hollywood. 

Being keen on movies, I decided to stay on in Hollywood. I stayed 
for two years until late 1961. I appeared in one movie, "Song With- 
out End," in which I played Chopin a supporting role. I hated it. 
Hollywood is fine for some people, but for me making that movie was 
very dull, very boring. The movie had shots of some of Europe's 
beautiful concert halls, but it was a complete distortion of Liszt's life. 
I'm glad I stayed as long as I did, because I got rid of a lot of 
notions about the desirability of becoming a rich, glamorous Holly- 
wood actor. I'm keen on movies, but I got disillusioned very quickly 
with the kind of work you have to do there as an actor, and with the 
whole feeling of the place the slavery to the dollar, and the tremen- 
dous effort that is put into sheer rubbish. I won't ever try to do what I 
did in those two years not ever again. It just isn't worth the price 
you have to pay. Deep down, you know whether or not you've got the 
talent, and if you feel you've got it, you just have to handle ^yourself 
with integrity. It would be easy, in a way, to travel the road of some 
English actors who have become big stars in Hollywood. To me, how- 
ever, they are a big joke. I'm glad that no serious offer came my way 



while I was in Hollywood, because I might not have had the strength 
to turn it down. You're really at a low ebb there. In Hollywood, actors 
rely completely on their agents. Actors sit there basking in the sun 
and waiting for calls from their agents, and getting more and more 
demoralized. In my two years there, I worked mostly in television 
movies the worst of all. I got hired for about seventy-five per cent 
of the jobs that my agent sent me to be interviewed for. I had been 
looking forward to making Western movies, but the television ones 
I was hired for were entirely different. I was in a couple of Westerns, 
each of which was made in about two and a half days, and was all 
very hit and miss. I was in one "Have Gun, Will Travel/' with Rich- 
ard Boone, and I was in one "Zane Grey Theatre/* with Mel Ferrer. 
I was in a "Perry Mason" as a rich young man who was suspected of 
murder but hadn't done it. In "Hong Kong/' another series, I played 
a captain of the Hong Kong police got out my gun and shot a few 
people, and tracked down a few people. I was in "Thriller," playing 
a young man in love with somebody very dreary, and I was in "Roar- 
ing '20V playing a king on a visit to New York who falls in love 
with a gangster's moll. 

In the fall of 1961, I returned to New York, to see what I might 
find in the way of a job in the theatre, and I saw a billboard outside 
the Lyceum Theatre announcing that Robert Shaw, Donald Pleasence, 
and Alan Bates were rehearsing in "The Caretaker." The play was 
one I had read and loved. Bates was going to leave the cast after the 
pre-Broadway tour plus four weeks, and I auditioned for his part and 
got it. It's the best contemporary play I've ever been in. There are 
so many bad plays one must be in just to keep working, but this was 
a play I had no doubts about. I started out pushing things a bit too 
much. In one scene in particular, in which I shared a sandwich with 
the old tramp, I was missing points; I wasn't getting the reaction I 
knew I should be getting from the audience. After a while, I relaxed 
a bit in the part, and the reaction came back from the audience. I 
found that by doing it naturally, playing it as simply as I could, with- 
out bravado, I created the effect I wanted. The lines of the play are 
so good, so right; there isn't a line that is redundant. I compare this 
play to a musical score. The play is all in the text. There wasn't much 
for the director to do. He had only to be a referee; there was nothing 
for him to mold. In a good play, the director's main function is to 



cast the parts. In a bad play, the director comes into his own. "The 
Caretaker" was a tremendous exercise in concentration. You could 
never let go for a moment. If one of the three of us in the cast was 
off key, the whole play went down the drain. It is said that actors 
give two or three performances a week and do the rest of the eight on 
technique. In "The Caretaker/' I think we did five or six perform- 
ances a week. I learned an incredible amount simply by working with 
Donald Pleasence in this single play. Things like how to hold a pause 
just pure know-how. The audience dictates the sort of performance 
you give. If the audience has a sense of humor, you know it and are 
affected by it. Audiences do, strangely enough, take on a personality 
in the actor's mind. You know whether you have a tremendously 
sympathetic and intelligent audience that enjoys what you do, or 
whether it's just a lump of pudding. Donald is particularly good at 
sensing what the audience will take. I don't mean he ever panders to 
an audience. But if he feels that it's getting the fine points, he'll dwell 
on them a little longer. American audiences sometimes seem to want 
things cut and dried. There's a kind of desperation you sense in some 
American audiences. In America, the ticket prices are so high that 
audiences become frantic. They want their money's worth; they want 
to be sure of getting something culturally important. In England, 
there's a greater interest in the actors. Audiences go to see the actors 
and talk about them: He was good in "King Lear" and not so good 
in "Hamlet." 

The theatre is terribly important today. People are so self-concerned 
now, so wrapped up in how much money they're making, and the 
theatre gets them all together and takes them out of themselves and 
makes them think. There's an enormous sense of satisfaction onstage 
when you achieve a moment you've worked very hard for when you 
have a welding of the audience and the actor, and the actor lets the 
audience in on what he's doing. It's important to keep your enjoy- 
ment of acting. If acting becomes too intense and too lacking in fun, 
it can turn into a terrible chore. If you go on with the feeling that 
success must happen, everything is bound to become boring and pomp- 
ous. Acting for yourself is a bit of a bore. You act for the audience. It's 
a marvellous, marvellous profession. 



Acting is putting on a mask. The worst torture that 
can happen to me is not having a mask to get in back 

I was born on May 16, 1905, in Grand Island, Nebraska, just west of 
Omaha. I'm the oldest of three. My sisters, Harriet and Jayne, are 
married to businessmen and live in Omaha and in Pasadena, Califor- 
nia, respectively. My father, William Brace Fonda, owned a printing 
company in Omaha, where I was raised. He died in 1935. My mother, 
an angelic woman, died the year before. I look like my father. To this 
day, when I walk past a mirror and see my reflection in it, my first 
impression is: That's my father. There is a strong Fonda look. It's in 
my sisters, in their children, in my children. The name Fonda is Italian 
in origin. There were Fondas in the Apennine Valley, near Genoa, who 
migrated to Holland around 1400 during a religious revolution. 
Around 1628, Fondas were among the Dutch settlers who settled in up- 
per New York State, where, in a town called Fonda, both my father's 
mother and his father were born. Omaha has never ceased being my 
home. I always stop in Omaha when I'm going from one coast to the 


other. As a child, I lived in four different houses in and around 
Omaha, and went to three different grade schools. Then, when I was 
thirteen or fourteen, we settled down in a big wooden clapboard house 
in Omaha, and I attended Omaha Central High School. I got my full 
growth when I was a senior in high school. My son Pete grew in the 
same way. He stands six feet two an inch taller than I am. I had what 
I regard as a normal youth. My close friends today are the friends I 
grew up with: Bill Reed, an insurance man in Omaha; Charles Box, a 
banker in Chicago; Bill Johnson, a California businessman. We swam 
naked in sand pits and built shacks out of lumber we stole off construc- 
tion jobs. As a kid, I'd go downtown on the streetcar to my father's of- 
fice, and he'd give me a nickel to go to the nickelodeon, where I saw the 
early Charlie Chaplin and William S. Hart pictures. Starting when I 
was twelve, I worked in my father's printshop in the summers, at two 
dollars a week. When I was going to high school, I always worked in 
the summers. It never occurred to me to question it; I just assumed 
I'd have to work. My mother was a Christian Scientist. My grand- 
mother was a Second Reader in the church. Dorothy Brando, Marlon's 
mother, who was an amateur actress, was a close friend of Mother's in 
and out of the church. 

I started out wanting to be a writer. At ten, I wrote a story called 
"The Mouse," which was told from a mouse's point of view. We were 
living in a suburb of Omaha called Dundee, and the story was pub- 
lished in the Dundee newspaper. I took up journalism at college, at 
the University of Minnesota, and I worked at two jobs while studying 
trouble-shooter for the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company, and 
director of various sports and other activities at a settlement house. 
I'd take the streetcar from the campus to the settlement house, 
on the other side of town, in temperatures that went as low as thirty 
below zero, and in the basketball season I'd play on the team as well 
as coach it. For all that I got thirty dollars a month, plus room and 
board. Dad sent me ten bucks a week. It was exhausting. I did it for a 
year, and then I went home for a rest. While I was home, I got a mes- 
sage from Do Brando to call Gregory Foley, the director of the Omaha 
Community Playhouse. She knew that I was at loose ends, and that I 
was the right age and type to play a juvenile lead they were looking for. 
I called Foley, and was told to come over to his headquarters a studio 
with a skylight, which was kind of bohemian for Omaha. Foley, a short, 



red-headed Irishman, handed me the published version of "You and I," 
by Philip Barry, and asked me to read the part of Ricky, the juvenile 
lead. First thing I knew, I was cast in the play. I was sure I didn't want 
to do it. At rehearsals, I found myself in another world. It was a night- 
mare. I didn't dare look up. I was the kind of guy who thinks every- 
body is looking at him. I was very reluctant. I had no ambition to be 
an actor. But it was summer, and I had nothing else to do, so I joined 
the company. I stayed on at the Playhouse as an actor for two nine- 
month seasons and did four principal roles. I practically lived at the 
theatre. I painted scenery, soaked up the sight of the lines of rope that 
go up to the grid, smelled greasepaint, smelled smells I had never 
smelled before. My parents weren't particularly for it, but they ac- 
cepted it. After the first season, in the summer of 1926, I answered an 
ad for the job of office boy with the Retail Credit Company. I got the 
job filing and cross-filing. I was just learning the system when Foley 
called me to ask if I would play the lead in George Kaufman's and 
Marc Connelly's "Merton of the Movies" the part Glenn Hunter had 
played on Broadway. I said yes, but when I came home with the news, 
I was greeted by ice. Dad said it wasn't a good idea to quit my Retail 
Credit job. However, I was twenty-one and stubborn, and I said I was 
going to leave home, if necessary. My mother tried to straighten things 
out diplomatically, but Dad wouldn't speak to me for a month. The 
upshot was I did both; I went to work at Retail Credit at seven in the 
morning and rehearsed for the play at night and on Sundays. On open- 
ing night, I got my first feeling of what acting was all about. I liked the 
whole idea of getting up there and being Merton. I was given an ova- 
tion. When I got home, Dad was sitting in the living room behind his 
newspaper, and one of my sisters was starting to criticize my perform- 
ance when, from behind the newspaper, Dad said, "Shut up. He was 
perfect." One of the reviews of the play said, "Who needs Glenn 
Hunter? We have Henry." I played Merton for one wonderful week. 
I might easily have become a credit manager in Omaha and done 
community theatre for kicks, but then, in the spring of 1927, I sud- 
denly had an offer to spend a week in New York seeing all the shows, 
as a present from the mother of a local Princeton boy. I was supposed 
to pick him up and drive him home for Easter. When I told the 
manager of the credit office, he was shocked. He had big plans to send 
me to the home office in Atlanta for managerial training. But I made 



the trip to New York, and saw nine plays in six days, including "The 
Constant Wife," with Ethel Barrymore. I loved every minute. When 
I got back from New York, Foley offered me a job at the Playhouse as 
assistant director, at a salary of five hundred dollars, for the next sea- 
son. It seemed fine to me. I did a lot of things, including acting and 
designing scenery. Ever since kindergarten, I'd been able to draw. My 
mata acting assignment was to play opposite Do Brando in Eugene 
O'Neill's "Beyond the Horizon/' I was living at home, and I was be- 
ginning to think there was such a thing as making a living in the 
theatre. By the end of the season, I knew I wanted to go to New York. 
For three months in the summer of 1927, 1 did some one-night stands 
throughout Iowa and Illinois promoting a new movie about Abraham 
Lincoln; I had written a sketch for an actor named George Billings, 
who hired me to assist him in his act, which consisted of his doing an 
impersonation of Lincoln while the orchestra played "Hearts and 
Flowers." Then I went back to the Playhouse. In June, 1928, a friend 
of the family drove me to Cape Cod, where I wanted to get a job with 
the Provincetown Players. I was apple-cheeked, and I looked like a 
farm boy. I had about a hundred dollars saved up. I walked into the 
theatre, was told they had nothing, and walked out. I took the train 
over to Dennis and, in the middle of the afternoon, walked into the 
Cape Playhouse, where the company was rehearsing. I stood around, 
too scared to ask anybody anything, and then I went to a nearby board- 
ing house to arrange to spend the night. It turned out that all the com- 
pany were staying there Laura Hope Crews, Peggy Wood, Minor 
Watson, Romney Brent. I told them my name, and they were all very 
kind, all terribly nice people. It didn't occur to me to ask if I could 
join the company, but there must have been something in my face, be- 
cause they asked me if I'd like to stick around, as third assistant stage 
manager, at no salary. I stayed. They gave me a bit part in Kenyon 
Nicholson's "The Barker/' and I was as unprofessional as possible 
stood in a corner learning my lines while the others were rehearsing. 
The mark of an amateur. I was a really naive guy. Then the actor 
who was going to play the juvenile lead dropped out, and the part was 
given to me. A friend of mine came to see me in the play, and he in- 
vited me to drive with him to Falmouth, where a group he knew called 
the University Players Guild had just founded a summer theatre, with 
John Swope, Bretaigne Windust, Joshua Logan, Charles Leatherbee, 



and Kent Smith. All of us loved each other at first blush. Margaret 
Sullavan came to Falmouth in the second year, and Jimmy Stewart in 
the third. I moved to Falmouth, and in the next four summers I was in 
about twenty plays. Everybody did everything box-office work, usher- 
ing, painting scenery. The first summer, I had my first lead, in "Is 
Zat So?" I felt I was now in the world of the theatre. I was committed 
to it. 

At the end of that summer, everybody else went back to college, 
and I went to New York. I was excited. I was nothing but optimistic. I 
hardly had anything to eat for weeks. It never occurred to me to be dis- 
couraged. I wasn't terribly smart. If I'd been smart, I would have given 
up and gone home. Bretaigne Windust had told me, "Let's face it, 
Hank. You're a scenic designer." But I wanted to be an actor. I was 
making myself a little dizzy. I was damn sure I was a good actor, and 
sure that eventually I was going to prove it. My first season in New 
York, I became the best-known unknown actor in town. All the offices 
knew me. All the agents knew me. I lived on 114th Street in a ten- 
dollar-a-week room. I joined Equity. I learned that Equity listed all 
plays in production on its bulletin board. I didn't present myself well 
to producers, but I knew I was good. I had learned I was good when I 
played Merton in Omaha. Thirty-five years later, I can still remember 
the way I felt as Merton. There was a kind of breathless feeling I 
couldn't ever recapture. It was like being ten years old and playing 
cops and robbers. 

Practically everything that has ever happened to me has been the 
result of coincidence. It's been a matter of getting the lucky break, 
of being in the right place at the right time. For the next few 
years, I took odd jobs, such as doing plays for children, including 
plays of Shakespeare's that I not only hadn't ever acted in before but 
hadn't even read. I had a walk-on part in "The Game of Love and 
Death," a Theatre Guild production about the French Revolution. 
On Christmas Day, 1931, during a winter season I spent with the Uni- 
versity Players Guild in Baltimore, I was married to Margaret Sulla- 
van. It was a first marriage for both of us, and it didn't last long. She 
was established, and I had to find a job. I went back to Omaha in the 
spring of 1932 and played at the Community Playhouse in "A Kiss 
for Cinderella," in which Dorothy McGuire, then fourteen, played 
Cinderella. I worked as a backstage helper with the Surrey Theatre, in 



Maine, in the summer of 1932. 1 moved actors' trunks, and so on, until 
the scenic designer quit halfway through the season. Then I became 
the scenic designer. In the summer of 1933, I designed scenery for the 
Westchester Players, in Mount Kisco, and played some parts. Any 
summer theatre would have hired me as a scenic designer. In the spring 
of 1934, I was in Leonard Sillman's "New Faces/' on Broadway, in 
which I did comedy skits with Imogene Coca. Leland Hayward, an old 
friend, saw me in that show, and he became my manager-agent. That 
summer, I went back to the Westchester Players as the star, in leading 
parts. I knew then that the door was going to open. I could smell it 
coming. The graph had been in that direction. Leland Hayward wired 
me to come to Hollywood, but I wasn't interested. The theatre was my 
first love. It was. It is. But I went out anyway, and when Leland asked 
me to sign up with Walter Wanger, I asked for what I thought was the 
impossible amount of a thousand dollars a week. But Wanger said 
yes, so I signed a contract to do two pictures a year, with provisions for 
my going back to the legitimate theatre, and the next day went right 
back to Mount Kisco. June Walker, who had seen me as the tutor in 
Molnar's "The Swan/' at Mount Kisco, told Marc Connelly to get hold 
of me for a new play he had written with Frank B. Elser, "The Farmer 
Takes a Wife." Connelly borrowed me for it from Wanger. I did it first 
as a play and then as a movie. 

It was easy to make the transition to movies. I started to act in the 
film version of "The Farmer Takes a Wife" the way I always did for a 
play, and Victor Fleming, the director, told me I was mugging. And 
that's all it took. I just pulled it down to reality. You don't project 
anything for movies. You do it as you would in your own home. Be- 
cause of all the experience back of me in the same part, it didn't bother 
me to work out of continuity, the way you do in making a movie. Of 
course, there's very little personal satisfaction in doing those bits and 
pieces for a movie. You don't really have any recollection of having 
created a role. But in the beginning the money made it pretty at- 
tractive. After doing "The Farmer Takes a Wife," I made two movies 
for Wanger "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine," with Sylvia Sidney, 
and "The Moon's Our Home/' with Margaret Sullavan. I wanted 
to get my feet back on the boards, but I wasn't getting any plays 
submitted to me, and I kept making more movies, including "Jezebel," 
with Bette Davis, "Jesse James," with Tyrone Power, and "Young 


Mr. Lincoln," in which I played the title role. One movie I was 
eager to do was "The Grapes of Wrath*' the part of Tom Joad 
and I had to sign a seven-year contract with Fox to get the part. I re- 
gretted it, but signed. Then I couldn't get out of the contract I made 
all kinds of movies I hated. My gorge rises when I remember them. I 
did make a few I liked, though, including "The Lady Eve" and "The 
Male Animal," on loan-out. After "The Grapes of Wrath," I made 
"The Ox-Bow Incident/' but it took long sessions of violent argu- 
ment with Darryl Zanuck to get him to allow me to do it. In 1956, I 
acted in "12 Angry Men," which I co-produced with Reginald Rose, 
and which won many awards. I'm prouder of that than of almost any- 
thing else I've done in my career. 

In 1942, I was thirty-seven. I enlisted in the Navy and served as 
quartermaster third class on a destroyer in the Pacific. Later, the ex- 
ecutive officer on the destroyer recommended me for a commission; 
I was flown to 90 Church Street and discharged, was then immediately 
commissioned as a lieutenant (j-g-) and joined Air Combat Intelligence. 
At that time, I wasn't eager to go back to movies, but after the war I 
did go back. I made a John Ford picture, "My Darling Clementine," 
and other pictures, and then I went into Thomas Heggen's and Joshua 
Logan's "Mister Roberts" on Broadway. Yd never been in a long run 
before, except for a hundred and four performances in "The Farmer 
Takes a Wife." "Mister Roberts" was a love story backstage. We were 
all just crazy about the play. If anybody let down, he had thirty other 
guys on him. It really was like being in love. You had this good feeling 
in the guts practically all the time. I love to act, and in this play I al- 
ways knew everything I was going to do but could make it look like not 
acting at all. It was so wonderful acting with a guy like Robert Keith, 
who played Doc. Being on the stage with this man was the most fun 
I've ever had. I'd still be in my dressing room waiting to go onstage and 
I could feel the hackles rising in anticipation, the skin tingling. One 
of my joys was for Josh Logan, who had directed the play, to come to a 
performance and say, "Fonda, you son of a bitch!" To have him recog- 
nize the way the part got better all the time. It never got static. The 
pitfall you get into in most long runs is you stop listening. It's a subtle 
thing. It never happened in "Mister Roberts." The thing I try to do 
onstage is to create the illusion that it's happening for the first time. 
In two years, not a performance got by of all the performances we did 


that the audience didn't get what it came for; for them it was happen- 
ing for the first time. I never got tired of it. 

I'm suspicious of anything that happens too fast or too soon. When 
you have the part you are playing under control, it seems to be effort- 
less, but it's not. I baby up on a part. I get the feeling gradually. I 
learn the lines gradually. You feel your way in every instance. You 
find your way onstage. You get closer to your lines, then begin to find 
ways of doing them. I always know when it feels real to me. My 
daughter Jane and my son Pete both have stage presence. You're not 
aware that you've got it. It's just the magic thing the audience can see 
when the actor walks out on the stage. There are a lot of actors who 
have only presence. If you've got it, you thank your lucky stars, because 
you don't have to work so hard. It's wonderful to know you can get 
your audience just by walking out on the stage, because of your good 
voice, other physical things, and a lot more that are absolutely intan- 
gible. But in addition to having stage presence you have to know what 
you are doing. I was surprised and delighted when I found that my 
children knew. In fact, I was absolutely floored. Recently, Jane told me 
that something had happened to her in a play she was in. She said, 
"Dad, I felt that my real emotion had taken over/' When my emotions 
take over in a part, it's like a seaplane taking off on the water. I feel as 
if I were soaring. If five times out of eight a week the emotions take 
over, you've got the magic. But you hold it back just enough. It's 
just like holding a horse back. It's got to be thought out, and you've 
got to listen to the others, or you start blubbering all over the place. 
Normally, when I start working on a play, by the second week I don't 
have the script in my hand any more and I can feel the character com- 
ing to life. I get frantic when it's not happening, because it means to 
me that the words, the scenes are not right. When it's difficult, it's aw- 
ful. When it begins to be less difficult, I begin to find the blood, the 
breath of the part and I'm less myself. 

The theatre is where I really get my kicks. When you make a movie, 
and people say you're great, you like to hear them say it, but you 
don't have the feeling you've lived your character or built your emo- 
tions one on top of another. In movies, you hit emotion maybe once 
in a scene. Live television is like the theatre. You're on and you're com- 
mitted to it, the way you are on the stage. Film television is like movies. 
You do television movies to make a buck and save a buck. I was damn 



lucky I became an actor. Theatre is the only thing I understand. I can't 
really talk about anything else. In company, I don't have small talk. 
It's pretty silly to begin with, and I don't know how to do it at all. 
When you've exhausted the weather, and where you've been, and 
where they've been, you're stuck. When I get stuck, I feel everybody is 
looking at me and I want to hide. I like to be the observer. 

I've had practical problems to face as an actor. On the practical 
side, I recently appeared in a television series called "The Deputy," 
which is now bringing me an income from reruns. My first reaction was 
to resist it, because I still feel I have a future and I didn't want to be 
identified with one character. But we found a way for me to limit my 
appearances in the weekly films; in some of them I appeared in just 
one scene. I did the series because the show is something I produced 
and partly own. If I didn't do things like that, I wouldn't be able to 
live the way I do raise a family, put the children through college, 
dress well, have a town house in New York, have a villa on the 
Riviera, go to Cape Cod, travel when I feel like it, and do a play 
once a year. This is what being an actor has given me, and I say, 
Thank God that's what I am. But what I get out of acting is worth 
more than any money. I'm happiest and most relaxed when I'm on- 
stage. I look forward to it. It's terribly important to me to be good. 
When strangers come up to me, wherever I am, and say, "Mr. Fonda, 
I hope you don't mind, but thank you," I am very pleased. They're 
not just fans who want to say they've seen a movie star. They have had 
pleasure, and you've given it to them. 



What I like even more than the acting itself is just 
being in the theatre, especially during rehearsals, as 
a member of a group working together ; in the same 
place, for the same goal, under one spotlight sur- 
rounded by darkness, like a family in the living room. 

I was born on December 21, 1937, in New York City, and was taken 
at the age of a few weeks to Hollywood, where my father, Henry 
Fonda, had been persuaded by Twentieth Century-Fox, his movie 
studio, to make his home for a while. I have a brother, Peter, two 
years younger than I am, who left the University of Omaha in 1960, 
his junior year, to act in a comedy on Broadway, then got married 
and went out to Hollywood on a movie contract. I have a half sister, 
Frances, six: years older than I am, who is a painter and lives in 
Rome, and an adopted sister, Amy, sixteen years younger than I am. 
Amy was adopted by rny father and Susan Blanchard, his third wife. 
My mother, Frances Seymour Fonda, who was my father's second 
wife, died when I was twelve. She was the eldest of seven children, 
and was a great beauty, and had a great head for finance. Before 
marrying my father, she was married to George Tuttle Brokaw, a 
lawyer and sportsman who came of a famous New York family. Even 
though I was never close to her, I know how loving and generous she 
was. If you lose your mother before you're old enough to get close to 
her, you almost never understand her as an individual in her own 
right, and that's what happened with me. As children, Peter and I lived 



on a twenty-four-acre farm in Brentwood. It was quite isolated around 
there, and Pete was my main companion. We had three dogs and a 
cat, and a lot of chickens, and some rabbits who were my best friends 
for a while and we had flower and vegetable gardens. I loved my 
job, which was to collect the newly laid eggs. Our house was unusual 
around there; it was a sort of New England setup transplanted to 
California. My father did everything possible to make it look like a 
genuine old New England house; it had shingles made to look weather- 
beaten, and a lot of Early American furnishings cobblers' benches, 
braided rugs, lamps made from butter churns. We had a large dinner 
bell on our roof that could be heard for a mile around. We had a 
swimming pool, but my father disguised it to look like a pond. My 
father loved the farm and often plowed the fields himself. We had 
two mules, and Pete and I would go out in the hills on them and ex- 
plore. There were bobcats, coyotes, and rattlesnakes in the hills; one 
of the things I learned at school the Brentwood Town and Country 
School was how to treat rattlesnake bites. In the hills, Peter and I 
played big roles in our own kind of Westerns, living the way we 
thought our father lived in the movies we'd see him in. I was scared 
to death when I saw my father in John Ford's "Drums Along the 
Mohawk." For two days, in the movie, my father ran from one fort 
to another as a settler, and then there was a big life-and-death battle, 
with the Indians massacring the whites, but the whites finally winning. 
It was the longest movie of my life, as I waited for my father and 
the whites to win. Peter and I saw "Fort Apache" when we were in 
our teens; in that one my father was the bad man and got killed. 
Recently, in a Hollywood theatre, I saw two of my father's old movies 
"Jezebel," with Bette Davis, and "The Lady Eve," with Barbara 
Stanwyck both of which he made shortly after I was born. At home, 
my father always wore levis and work clothes that made him look like 
a cowboy, and Pete and I would try to copy him in every respect. My 
father would bring his Hollywood friends in John Wayne, Ward 
Bond, and John Ford who dressed the same way, and they would 
sit around the house playing cards and talking like cowboys. 

I don't remember owning a dress until I was about eight. I was 
always in blue jeans, day in and day out, and my hair was cut short. 
I'd sit on the roof of our house with Pete and I'd say, "Tell me the 
truth, Pete. Which one of us could lasso a buffalo better?" I didn't 



have much to do with my half sister Frances. I didn't understand her. 
I'd sometimes watch her through a window when she gave what I 
thought were wild parties. She got married very young she has 
since been divorced and after that I hardly saw her. Every once in a 
while, I'd be taken to a birthday party given for one of Joan Craw- 
ford's children. I was abashed to learn how different their life was 
from ours. Joan Crawford's little girl and her friends wore pretty, 
frilly dresses and knew what to do with their hands and how to be 
polite and how to stand and how to walk and how to talk. At those 
parties, I usually ended up by crying, and our nurse would have to 
take me home early. What I liked best as a child was horses. I 
started riding when I was five. I used to spend a lot of time hanging 
around riding stables near our house. When I was ten, my father left 
for New York to appear on Broadway in "Mister Roberts." Six months 
later, the whole family moved to Greenwich, Connecticut. I went to 
Greenwich Academy for three and a half years. At first, I lived with my 
maternal grandmother in a house in Greenwich my mother had rented 
before she died, and later the same year I lived with my mother's 
sister and her husband, who also had a house in Greenwich. They had 
no children of their own. When I was fourteen, my father was staying 
at Oscar HammersteuVs town house in New York, so I stayed there, too. 
If you have glamorous parents, you just have to live a special way. I 
loved New York, but I didn't have any friends here. I felt sort of special 
living my way, but I rather envied girls with what looked like normal 
family lives, and I often pretended to my classmates that my life was 
like theirs. Four months after my father married Susan Blanchard, Mr. 
Hammerstein's stepdaughter, in December, 1950, I went to live with 
them. I was very fond of Susan, and it felt almost like having a whole 
family again. The following summer, my father was making the 
movie version of "Mister Roberts" in California and Hawaii, and I 
went along; part of the time we stayed in a hotel at Waikiki Beach. 
Between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, I attended the Emma 
Willard School, in Troy, New York a boarding school. I was poten- 
tially a good student, but I was always getting into trouble of some 
kind. In my first year, my best friends were the white mice we used 
in biology class, and on my first vacation home my father was making 
a movie in Hollywood, and since he had sold the farm, we stayed in 
the old Marion Davies mansion, which had been turned into a hotel 


I brought the white mice with me and let them escape in the back 
yard. I got into all kinds of scrapes at school, and depended on the 
Fonda name to get me out of them. Once, I poured lighter fluid 
down the hall from my room to the room of a girl I didn't like, 
and set fire to it, knowing it would burn itself out before it did any 
real damage, but at the same time would leave no doubt that I didn't 
like that girl. In my second year at school, I joined the drama class. 
I acted in a few school plays and gave some readings during the 
next three years. I loved doing it. I wasn't self-conscious yet, and 
I didn't know what it meant to develop a character. I liked my 
costumes, and putting on the makeup, and getting all that attention. 
I would always go up in my lines. It was a bit of a romp. It had 
nothing to do with acting. My very first part at Emma Willard was 
the male lead in the Christopher Fry play "Boy with a Cart," put 
on as a Thanksgiving Day special in chapel. All I remember about 
it was wearing green tights, a green burlap-sack blouse, and a 
green hat with a feather in it. I also played Lydia Languish in "The 
Rivals." Acting was better than studying math, and that was all it 
really meant to me. I was supposed to be learning the feminine 
graces how to walk, what to do with my hands, and so on but it 
was all puzzling to me. People always said I was a fine, healthy girl, 
and called me a mature child. So helpful, they said, and so under- 
standing. I wasn't a mature child at all. At home, I never showed 
anything I felt. I kept a poker face, and that made people conclude 
that I was mature. We were not a demonstrative family. I grew up not 
knowing how to show hatred, anger, or grudges. I just stored it all up. 
It was a great disadvantage to me as an actress, I discovered later on. 
There was an exception, though. Around the stables, I'd get into 
fights with the stable boys. I'd usually start the fights with the boys. I'd 
kick them and hit them. My arm was broken once in a fight with 
a boy. I also broke an arm in a fall from a horse. Another time, I broke 
my wrist while I was roller-skating in a hall at home. I was always 
banging myself up. I'd seen so many of my father's movies where he 
was a hero and beat people up that I got the idea that I had to do 
it, too. Physical prowess was what counted. When I was nine, I had 
my first crush on a boy. At first, he didn't notice me, and that was 
fine, because I could just melt into the background and watch him. 
But one day he asked me to go to a dance with him. My answer was 



to hit him as hard as I could. I just never got the idea of how people 
were supposed to behave with each other. 

The summer after I graduated from Emma Willard, I lived with 
my father in Rome while he made "War and Peace." We lived on an 
estate outside the city, and I had nothing to do except eat figs and 
get fat and watch Gina Lollobrigida, a neighbor, through binoculars. 
Then I went to Vassar College. I stayed two years, trying to study 
French and the history of music, among other liberal-arts subjects, 
and just got by. I didn't like it. I kept thinking how expensive it 
was and how someone else ought to be in my place, getting some 
benefit out of the school. I had a few friends at Vassar not very close, 
except for Leland Hayward's and Margaret Sullavan's daughter, 
Brooke, who was considered very beautiful and very talented and was 
expected to become an actress. She had been a lifelong friend. I never 
went to dances, because I considered it square to go to school dances. 
And I never had dates. I considered myself ugly. The college put on 
the Lorca play "Amor de Don Perlimplin con Belisa en su Jardin/' 
and I played the lead, a young Spanish girl who stood in a window 
and sang songs, and cuckolded her husband. I knew almost nothing 
about the motivations of the character I played. By then, I was self- 
conscious enough to look for things in the character, but I didn't 
know how. There was nothing behind the emotions I showed. I 
didn't know how to show that the emotions came from something 
and that the words had meaning. I really hadn't decided to become 
an actress at that point. I even thought that I didn't want to be an 
actress. What I wanted was to get out of Vassar. When I was in my 
second year, I told my father that I wanted to get out of the United 
States, that I wanted to go to Paris and study painting. Ever since my 
finger-painting days in kindergarten, I'd been rather good at it. I'd 
done quite a bit of it always still-lifes. After my second year at Vassar, 
I went to Paris, and lived with a French family. I enrolled in two 
schools the Academic Grande Chaumi&re et Colorassi and the Aca- 
dmie Julian. I went in with my canvases and paints, and then began 
to feel very lost. I didn't know anyone at either school and couldn't 
understand French and thought everyone was watching my clumsy 
efforts to paint. I still go in for some of that nonsense; when I go to 
ballet school, for instance, I feel that everyone is watching me. In 
Paris, I gradually spent less and less time in art class and more and 



more time on the Left Bank, hanging around little bars and 
antique shops and the Flea Market. I was supposed to stay a year. 
After a month, I was sleeping more and studying less. That Christmas, 
I came home to spend the holidays with my father, and he persuaded 
me to stay home. He wasn't fooled. He knew pretty much how it was 
for me in Paris. 

Back in New York, I began to study French and Italian at the 
Berlitz School. I lived with my father and his fourth wife, Afdera 
Franchetti, in their town house, on East Seventy-fourth Street. Next 
door was the Mannes College of Music. From my bedroom I could 
hear the students practicing. I decided to study piano there, and 
took lessons for a few months. But it was too frustrating. I wanted to 
jump in and start playing concertos, instead of studying scales. I 
kept on with painting lessons, at the Art Students League, but paint- 
ing became steadily less enjoyable and more difficult to do. I thought 
people who looked at what I painted expected something of me that 
I couldn't live up to. As soon as I finished a canvas, I'd be hyper- 
critical of it. I thought about becoming an actress. That was what I 
wanted to do more than anything else, so I spent a lot of time 
figuring out reasons I didn't want to act it was selfish and egotistical, 
it gave no enjoyment, I wasn't pretty enough, and so on. Once, when 
Brooke Hayward and I were riding in a car with David Selznick, he 
told Brooke that she had star quality, that she was beautiful, glam- 
orous everything I thought I wasn't. All I felt was awkward. But I 
longed to act. I would think about it and tremble. I knew I'd have to 
please so many people fellow-actors, authors, directors, producers, 
and critics whereas in painting I was my own master. When, years 
later, I finally committed myself to acting, I never again picked up a 
paint brush or felt the need to. 

My father had nothing to do directly with my wanting to act. 
Something must have rubbed oft, though a temperament, a need 
for the theatre. I really admired my father's acting. He's never bad, 
no matter what he's playing in. My favorite movie of his is "The 
Grapes of Wrath," which he made when I was two years old. It was 
beautifully written and directed, and deals with a subject that was 
important to my father. He believed in it socially and politically. 
He was Tom Joad, and he loved that character, and it shows, and 
that's why I like it the best of all his movies. When I was six- 



teen, I appeared with him in "The Country Girl" in a summer benefit 
in Omaha. I had about five small scenes, in the part of the ingenue 
and my real father's granddaughter, in the play within the play. I 
was supposed to act very tremulous. For preparation, I asked a stage- 
hand to shake me up and push me out onstage. At another point, I 
was onstage with Dorothy McGuire, who was playing my father's 
wife in the play, and I was supposed to be upset, so I tried to pretend 
to myself that my father was dead. I didn't really know what I was 
doing. I had no awareness of the other players, and I didn't like the 
experience. After my first year at Vassar, my father played in "The 
Male Animal" at the Cape Playhouse, in Dennis, and I played a 
small part with him the young sister of the English professor's wife. 
I did it because I had nothing else to do. And I kept wondering what 
people would think of me. I wasn't able to forget that the only reason 
I was in the play was that Henry Fonda was my father. 

In the late summer of 1958 came the turning point in my life. 
That's when I met Lee Strasberg. I'd gone out to Hollywood to be 
with my father while he made a movie. I was feeling sort of desperate. 
I was almost twenty-one. I knew that at the end of the summer I'd 
have to come back to New York with my father. I still didn't have 
anything definite to do. None of the things I'd tried to do really 
satisfied me. I had become friendly with Susan Strasberg, and one day 
she introduced me to her father. He was out there with his wife, 
Paula, who was coaching Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like It Hot." I 
told Lee I was interested in acting, and after talking with me he 
agreed to accept me as a student in his acting classes. For the first 
time in my life, I felt I was talking with someone who didn't feel he 
had to be nice to me because of my father. He was the only person 
I'd ever known who was interested in me without having to be. I told 
him I had exhausted all the things I'd thought I wanted to be. He 
didn't ask me to read for him. He just asked me questions. Why was I 
interested in the theatre? What did I expect from the theatre? Who 
was my favorite actress? And so on. At the time, my favorite actress 
happened to be Geraldine Page, because I couldn't forget her perform- 
ance in "Mid-Summer." As soon as I came back to New York, three 
weeks later, I set about becoming independent. With a roommate, 
Susan Stein, I moved into a small apartment a block from my father's 
house, and I started modelling. I'd done one fashion layout for Town & 



Country earlier that year, so I was able to register with an agency 
and start getting modelling assignments. I was a success as a model, 
which surprised me, because I'd always thought that I had a bad 
figure, that I was too fat, that my hair was wrong, that I was clumsy. 
I would compare myself with other models, who seemed so willowy 
and graceful, and not at all like me. But there must have been some- 
thing about the way I photographed that caught on, I was paid fifty 
dollars an hour, only ten dollars short of the top fee. I kept thinking 
that anyone who didn't look like Suzy Parker might as well give up, 
but apparently I came along at a time when they were beginning to 
use more natural-looking models. In July, 1959, my photograph, by 
Irving Penn, appeared on the cover of Vogue; I was wearing a gold 
linen sheath. I used to hang around the newsstands watching the faces 
of the people who bought the magazine. I thought I looked pretty but 
not really beautiful. In January, 1960, in my second Vogue cover, also 
by Penn, I was shown wearing a blue silk dress. I have had pictures on 
six magazine covers since I began modelling. 

In October, 1958, I started classes with Lee Strasberg. Before that, 
everything I'd done had seemed wrong. Now I knew I'd never be satis- 
fied doing anything but acting. Lee's classes, which are separate from 
the Actors' Studio, are held above the Capitol Theatre. He takes 
students who are of interest to him, and he doesn't care what any- 
body else says or thinks about it. Once he's picked people who are 
of interest to him, he tries to find out who they are. He brings out 
what is in you. He shows you how to use yourself, and not something 
borrowed from someone else. The classes are a groundwork for acting, 
like grammar for English. He told me I had too much of a facade 
and that it would greatly limit me in acting if I held on to it. The 
first time he met me, he said, he couldn't tell anything about me ex- 
cept that I had a certain look in my eyes. Lee somehow imparts dignity 
and gives you confidence in yourself. With Lee, I learned that every 
need has a counter-need. I also learned that somewhere inside you is 
an experience similar to the one you are playing. For example, if you 
play a murderer, you don't have to have had the experience of actually 
murdering someone, because somewhere inside yourself you will find 
some relevant experience. In one of my recent movies, "The Chap- 
man Report," I play a frigid woman, a widow. To do it, I don't 
have to be like that woman. Instead, I call on what every woman has 



felt at some time in her life doubts about herself. This feeling is 
enough to give me insight into the way that woman feels. In January, 
1961, I did my first audition for the Actors' Studio. After my final 
audition, I plan to work there as much as I can. 

When I'd been studying with Lee for six months, I went out to 
Hollywood to make my first movie, "Tall Story/' with Anthony 
Perkins, which was produced and directed by Joshua Logan. Just 
before I left New York, I got a chance to play the ingenue in "The 
Moon Is Blue," with Harold Lang, for two weeks at the Fort Lee 
Playhouse, in New Jersey. I jumped at it. This time I was on my own, 
and it felt pretty good. After that taste, I knew I'd be out looking 
far parts. "Tall Story" is about a tall girl who goes to college to find 
a husband and chooses a school with a championship basketball team. 
A subplot has to do with the bribing of team members. I found 
it all very strange. I felt alone, surrounded by lights. I didn't question 
Josh. I'd known him all my life, and I thought that if he believed 
I could do it, I could. But the role itself didn't mean very much to 
me. I just came to the set whenever I was called. Three years later, I 
was walking along Forty-second Street and saw the words "Tall Story" 
in lights, with my name, on a movie marquee, and I felt proud. When 
the movie was finished, Josh told me he was going to direct the Broad- 
way production of Daniel Taradash's "There Was a Little Girl," and 
asked me if I wanted to play the lead in it. I was enthusiastic, and 
said yes. My father thought the play and the part weren't right for me; 
it was about rape, and I was to play the girl who was raped. I think he 
wanted to protect me from what he thought might be a disaster. But 
I thought, Who am I to turn down such a part the leading role in a 
Broadway play? I knew that practically every young actress in New 
York had auditioned for the part, and after I had read for it ten or 
fifteen times, the director and the producers wanted me. Three days 
before I accepted the part, my father called me up and begged me to 
turn it down. But I didn't. I went into the play with a complete lack 
of fear. I loved the rehearsals. I loved working with Josh Logan. I 
loved working with a group, and I began to see for the first time 
that when a group work together with real love, art happens. I 
savored every morsel. It was like belonging to a family. I was doing 
exactly what I wanted to be doing. I enjoyed making myself fit the 
part, making myself frail as a woman, and vulnerable, and weak. I 



had always -thought of myself as strong and independent, a self- 
sufficient type, in blue jeans, and I enjoyed playing a dependent-girl 
role. Before that, in my real life, I used to sit and wonder just what 
it was that other people did and what there was to do. Now I began 
to have some idea of what there was to do, and what I had been 
missing. I loved the routine of acting in a play every night. I had 
had so little responsibility in my life that I loved having demands 
made on me to be someplace at a definite hour, with something 
definite to do. I began to feel a connection with myself. I felt ac- 
cepted. Everything I do now leads up to and goes into my acting. For 
my second Broadway play, "Invitation to a March," in October, 1960, 
I'd get to the theatre a good two and a half hours before the other 
members of the cast. 

Everything is best for me when I'm onstage. That's when I come 
alive. Everything seems so much fuller when I can discover some- 
thing I can add to a part I play. I do it all for myself. I care about 
the audience, but I don't act for it. I used to think how nice it would 
be if I could do all my acting as readings, on a bare stage, alone, under 
a hard light. But I act for myself first In order to act for others. I 
started out acting for myself in "Invitation to a March." The part of 
Norma Brown was the story of me of a conventional girl, a sleeping 
beauty who is awakened to love by the kiss of a boy. I knew just what 
I wanted to do with the role, but other people had other ideas, and I 
think we lost the human reality of the girl. When the play opened, 
I was acting for others. I was doing what they thought the audience 
wanted me to do, rather than what I wanted to do, so I came out 
like a thin, slick, Ginger Rogers ingenue. I wanted the humor to 
come from the conflict in the girl, her struggle with herself, but 
instead I had to do a funny painted poster of a girl. Anyway, I 
went on doing what others wanted me to do. Finally, what I came 
to like about the play was going to the theatre and just knowing 
what I would be doing day after day. I had a sense of belonging. 
It didn't matter to me in the least how many people came to see 
the play. Often it felt better when we had a small house. I had so 
little experience and knew so little about the technique of how 
to sustain a performance, and after the play opened, I lost what 
little I had had when I believed in the part. I might have sustained 
my performance if I had been able to hold to what I originally felt 



about the part. My father, however, thought all along that the play 
was marvellous. One thing I did like about the play was not having 
to carry the main responsibility of it. I enjoyed the opportunity of 
working with two fine actresses, Eileen Heckart and Madeleine Sher- 
wood. I learned that they were able to sustain their performances 
whether the audience was or wasn't responding, and laughing at the 
expected times. They could play to a full house or to a small house. 
At first, I used to wonder at the way they did it, and then I found 
that I was able to do it myself. In the beginning, when I first went out 
onstage I always felt like apologizing to the audience. I suppose I 
felt unworthy to appear before it. If I sensed resentment on the 
part of anybody in the audience, I'd start to fade out. For a long 
time, I felt I had to know who was in the audience. Sometimes I'd go 
up to the balcony to look at the faces and guess how they were going 
to respond to me. If I saw mean faces, I'd feel terrible. 

I'd like someday to be as good an actress as Geraldine Page or 
Kim Stanley. The better I get as an actress, the freer I feel. Actresses 
have to exhibit themselves, to hang themselves up on a clothes- 
line. Onstage, you often find that you're free to do what you can't do 
In real life. When I first read a script, I wonder about the kind of 
person my character is. I don't think very much about the others in 
the cast. I get the smell of the character I'm going to play. I try to 
establish rapport with her. The first time I read "Invitation to a 
March," I was so moved that I laughed and cried. I knew just what 
I wanted to do with the role. The girl was like me, in that she tried 
to reconcile her strong emotions and what she knew was possible in the 
world with what she'd been told she could expect in life. I loved the 
idea of doing that. In my own life, I was brought up to be well-man- 
nered, no matter where I was or what I was doing. At parties, even to- 
day, I work at being charming, though I may not feel in the least like 
being charming. I show an interest in people I'm not the least bit inter- 
ested in. Onstage, I found, I didn't have to do anything of that kind. 
Playing a role, I was free to reveal exactly what I felt. 



When I experience a moment of total communication 
between me and the audience, I feel, Well, maybe 
they do accept me as an actor. 

I was born on February 20, 1924, in Miami, Florida. I was the 
youngest of eight children, but now there are only six of us; my sister 
Teddy died several years ago, and my brother Cedric, who was a 
waiter in Nassau, died in 1961, leaving six children of his own. My 
father also died in 1961, in a little house in Nassau that I'd got for 
him and my mother a few years before. To my parents, what started 
happening to me after I left home was all very strange. I was still 
their baby so much so, I'm afraid, that it was sickening. They'd see 
me in movies, and they'd wonder what on earth I was doing there. 
Most of the time, I've felt exactly the way they did. My eldest brother, 
Cyril, is forty-six and does odd jobs in Miami. He has twelve children. 
The other children are Ruby, a housewife in Miami; Redis, a waiter 
in Nassau; Reginald, a maitre d' at the British Colonial Hotel, in 
Nassau; and Carl, a waiter in Nassau. When I was three months old, 
my family moved to Cat Island, in the Bahamas, where my father 
worked as a tomato farmer. We stayed on Cat Island until I was eleven, 



and then we moved to Nassau. I could swim when I was three. I could 
climb trees as well as Tarzan himself. There were no automobiles on 
Cat Island, which is about fifty miles long and averages ten miles wide, 
and there was nothing to get in my way. I had freedom. I was never 
watched. From the time I could walk, I had complete freedom to learn 
by trial and error. When I was three, I would go out and be alone on 
the island all day. I had my own imagination as a companion. I'd 
imagine I was a big fisherman going after big fish, or I was a farmer 
working in the fields. When I was five, I once walked across the island, 
all by myself, which would be like walking from Brooklyn to the 
Bronx. I got to the middle of the island, and there wasn't a human 
soun d only birds and little insects. Finally, I came to the other side 
of the island, and I played out there for half a day, all alone, hunting 
turtle eggs. My mother used to cook the turtle eggs I brought her. Our 
kitchen was outside, with an open grill. Our house was stone and had 
a thatched palm-leaf roof very primitive. When I got home after be- 
ing out on the island all day, nobody ever noticed. My mother just 
said, "Sit down and eat your dinner." 

In Nassau, I went to school for a year and a half, then quit to work 
at odd jobs, to help support the family. My father was unable to work, 
because of arthritis and rheumatism. I was always hungry as a kid. 
To this day, between huge meals, I'm hungry, and I fill in with Mars 
bars, Snickers, Oh Henrys, and Life Savers. So far, I've never been to a 
dentist. When I was fifteen, I was sent to Miami to live with my brother 
Cyril. I felt I wasn't wanted there, so before very long I set off for 
New York City. It took me three and a half months to get here. I rode 
a freight train, then walked, and then worked in the kitchen of a 
summer-resort hotel in the mountains in Georgia, where I saved up 
thirty-nine dollars enough to take a bus the rest of the way. I arrived 
early one morning, with a dollar and a half and no clothes except what 
I had on a shirt and blue jeans and one extra shirt. I took the sub- 
way to Harlem, and then came downtown that same afternoon, walked 
down Broadway from Fiftieth to Forty-second Street, and spent all the 
rest of my money on hot dogs and malted milks. That night, I got a 
job at the Turf Restaurant, as a dishwasher, for four dollars and eleven 
cents a night. For the next few months, until I had saved enough 
money to buy myself a coat and a suit, I slept either in Penn Station 
or in the Greyhound Bus Terminal that opens off it or on the roof of 



a building on Fifty-first Street, across from the Capitol Theatre. Soon 
after Pearl Harbor, I enlisted in the Army. I was trained to be a physio- 
therapist, and I served with the 1267th Medical Detachment, stationed 
at the Northport, Long Island, Veterans Hospital, which was a mental 
institution. I was discharged in December of 1944. In the Army, I was 
very rebellious. I was always restless, and the restlessness manifested it- 
self in a violent thrashing about something I still have as a carry-over 
today. The minute I have to do something and I don't want to do 
something, I become rebellious. It was a strange period for me. I 
couldn't read as well as I wanted to. To me, words were terrible. I was 
unable to learn them from the dictionary; I had to hear new words, or 
read them in a cluster of old words, so that I could figure out their 
meanings in relation to the words I did understand. I used to read 
anything I could get my hands on newspapers, magazines, Army man- 
uals. The other guys used to make fun of my West Indian accent, but 
I could always take that kind of ribbing. I had the qualities of a regu- 
lar guy, even though I was never admitted into the inner circle. 

After getting out of the Army, I continued to read the newspapers, 
not only to help myself learn words but to follow the want ads. The 
New York Journal-American had the best ads for manual laborers, and 
I learned a lot of new words about industry and the trades from those 
ads. One day, I read in the Amsterdam News that the American Negro 
Theatre was looking for actors. I was not satisfied with the idea of 
working with my hands, so I went over to the American Negro The- 
atre, which was in the basement of the 135th Street branch of the 
Public Library. It was a small place, with a small, low stage, and it had 
a capacity of about a hundred. The ad said that they were holding 
auditions. There were a lot of wooden chairs, unoccupied, in the audi- 
torium, and onstage were the people holding auditions. A giant of a 
man Frederick O'Neal, co-manager of the A.N.T., who is now a good 
friend of mine was in charge. He told me they were looking for actors 
for a play called "Walk Hard," adapted by Abram Hill from Lew 
Zinberg's novel "Walk Hard Talk Low." He handed me the script, 
pointed to a place somewhere in the middle, and said "Read." So I 
started to read. I read it terribly. I was a lean, lanky kid. I had just 
about my full growth then six feet two and a half but I had a baby 
face, and my voice was sort of high; it has deepened considerably over 
the years. And in reading I sounded like a West Indian. O'Neal was 



bugged with me. He said "Forget it." If he had said "Thank you very 
much. Sorry, but not right now," or something like that, I would have 
walked out of there and never come back or tried to do anything like 
that again. But the way he said "Forget it" made me feel as if I had 
been attacked. I felt chopped down a peg. Don't chop me down a peg, 
or, if you do, do it for good reasons that you tell me about. I was ex- 
tremely sensitive then about not being able to rise above working with 
my hands, so I walked out of there determined to go back and show 
that man I was not destined to be a laborer all my life. I had to vindi- 
cate myself. 

I bought a radio and embarked on listening to voices, night after 
night, for the next six months. It was a cheap little box radio, but it 
had good reception. Every night, I'd start at the top of the dial and go 
all the way to the bottom. I was living in a five-dollar-a-week room 
rented out in someone else's apartment the way they still do in Har- 
lem on 118th Street near Morningside Avenue. I'd take my supper, 
usually a loaf of raisin bread and a bottle of Pepsi-Cola I never drank 
milk; I hadn't tasted fresh milk since I was twelve years old up to my 
room. I'd lie on my bed and listen to the news, to plays, to 
commentators to everything. The point was that I was going to rec- 
tify what was wrong with my speech and go back and say "Aha!" and 
thumb my nose at that man and then walk out and go on and pursue 
my life. In addition to listening to the radio, I read whatever I could 
get my hands on mostly magazines. I went to see my first play, "Anna 
Lucasta," and was completely taken with how the stage looked so 
bright, so pretty, with all those lights. Late in 1945, I went back to the 
American Negro Theatre. This time, the A.N.T. school auditions were 
being held from seven to eleven at night, and there were three judges 
O'Neal, the director Abram Hill, and the acting teacher Osceola 
Archer. I wore my only suit a handsome brown suit and a yellow 
shirt and a great big flowery yellow-and-brown tie and brown shoes. I 
was decked out to beat the band. I sat there listening to other people 
audition. They knew what plays were, and they read scenes from them, 
I had come prepared to read a paragraph from a story in True Con- 
fessions a girl was talking to her boy friend about her ideas of life 
and marriage, or something like that. Then they called my name, and 
my throat went dry. My legs began to buckle. I got up onstage and 
read, in a shaking voice, my paragraph from True Confessions. The 



judges weren't indulgent. They were cold cold and exacting. They 
said, "O.K., now we'll give you an improvisation. You're in a jungle. 
A sniper shoots at you, and your buddy is killed, and you can't see 
the sniper, and you crawl along the ground and then get up and say, 
'Come and get me.' " So I did my improvisation. I got down on the 
floor and got my famous brown suit all dusty. Then they said "All 
right, thank you," and I went home. I didn't know whether I had 
shown them anything or not. All I knew was that I was on pins and 
needles. About a week later, I got a postcard from the A.N.T. saying to 
come in. I hadn't expected it, and I hadn't not expected it. I went in, 
and they said they'd take me into the school for three months, on a 
trial basis. 

I didn't have much money, but I was able to pay the A.N.T. a few 
dollars a week, and for the rest of the tuition I did odd jobs and 
janitor work backstage. During the day, I worked with my hands, 
washing dishes in a restaurant or pushing a handcart in the garment 
center, but my mind was always on the A.N.T. At night, I went to 
A.N.T. drama classes diction, body movement, arid so on. Soon I was 
hooked. At the end of the three months, they wanted to let me go, be- 
cause they didn't think I was very good. I begged them to give me an 
extension, and they did. I was still very inhibited, because of my ac- 
cent. The more people snickered at the way I talked, the more I with- 
drew, until a friend of mine in the class helped me to come out of 
myself. In the fall of 1946, I was hired by the director James Light 
to play Polydorus in an allrNegro production of "Lysistrata" at the 
Belasco Theatre. It closed after four performances, but I was a sensa- 
tion, because I was scared to death, and that was exactly what the part 
of Polydorus called for. When I got out onstage on opening night and 
looked into the sea of faces in the audience, I went panicsville. My 
one thought was, If only I can get out of this. I had twelve lines to say, 
and I think I managed to get six of them out. I couldn't talk above a 
whisper. I was shaking all over. Finally, I ran off the stage before I was 
supposed to. I stopped the show cold. The next morning, while I was 
trying to get lost, I learned that the notices killed the show but 
some of them mentioned me, and people were asking about that young 
actor who played Polydorus. I was offered a job right away, at sixty- 
five dollars a week, as understudy to all the young actors in a Broad- 
way revival of "Anna Lucasta." I was with the play from 1947 until 



1949, and sooner or later I played all kinds o parts in the play, in- 
cluding the male lead for a while on tour. 

At that point, I knew that I really liked to act. I was green, I was 
pretty bad at it, but I knew I was bad, and I knew how much better I 
could be. I began to have a feeling for what I was doing. My experience 
was restricted. Whatever natural ability I had was getting me by. But 
now I had a feeling for acting, and knew that what I needed next was 
experience. In 1949, 1 played in my first movie, an Army Signal Corps 
documentary called "From Whom Cometh My Help." The next year, 
I made my first Hollywood movie, "No Way Out." Then I was in "Cry, 
the Beloved Country/' "Red Ball Express/' "Go, Man, Go," "The 
Blackboard Jungle/' "Edge of the City/' "Something of Value/' "The 
Mark of the Hawk/' "The Defiant Ones/' and "Porgy and Bess." I re- 
turned to Broadway in March, 1959, to take the lead in Lorraine Hans- 
berry's play "A Raisin in the Sun." I was married in 1950 to Juanita 
Hardy, a dancer, whose sister is married to the fighter Archie Moore. 
We now have four small daughters and own an old house up on a hill, 
with seven acres of woods, in Pleasantville. There's a lot of room for the 
kids, and it's quite beautiful. I like the summers there, but I've never 
been able to negotiate winters around New York. I was born in the 
sun, and I always feel the cold and the dreariness of winter. But I want 
to stay near New York, and I tell myself that it's the winters that make 
the summers so wonderful When I have to go to Hollywood to make a 
movie, I'm all right. Actors, like other artists, can live anywhere. 
Wherever I am, I gather and store up impressions, whether I just stay 
home and cook and go to bed or visit friends or explore new territory 
and sample local tastes. An actor can be anywhere. 

If I had stayed in the Bahamas, I would probably have become a 
waiter, like my brothers. I became an actor not for self-expression but 
for success. To have money. To be recognized on the street. When I 
thought of what I wanted to do, I wanted to rest for three months on a 
boat, fishing in the Bahamas, just kind of lallygaggin' around, never 
coming into port except for food and supplies. Without success, that 
would be impossible. I got no satisfaction from working in a kitchen. 
I never settled; I was always moving. I wanted to make a better-living. 
I knew from reading the gossip columns that actors made money. For- 
tunately, I became an actor early enough to apply what the actor 
mostly applies his body. Acting is the only area in which you don't 



have to have a high-school education or a degree or a special skill. 
When you are creative, you have to work with the life you are familiar 
with. The reality I carry into the theatre is the only reality I know. 
I've always had imagination, but my imagination is part of my reality. 
When people talk about my talent, I really don't know what they 
mean. Even if you are gifted with genius, you are only the sum total 
of your environment. To me, my wherewithal, in addition to my body, 
is what I simply feel as my freedom. After I got to Nassau, at the age 
of eleven, I discovered the movies. I used to go all the time. They were 
mostly Westerns. I used to relive all the movies for the other kids. I 
played the good guys and the bad guys, all at the same time, and I used 
to have a spellbound audience. I could do that because I had freedom. 
I act now with the same freedom. 

We can try to intellectualize about the satisfactions of acting. We 
search the intellect, but that is one of the most dangerous areas to look 
for anything in. When I listen to people trying to talk about their 
ideas, I see the intellect straining at its own limits. For the most part, 
my work in movies, especially over the last few years, has brought me 
diminishing creative satisfaction. To get pleasure out of being in a 
movie, I have to work with a director who is able to inspire me. If the 
director knows more than you know and can find a way to bring out 
what is in you to be brought out, then you come alive. But if you know 
in your heart that the director is making a mistake, or maybe that a 
whole movie is a mistake, it's like going up a dead-end street. You keep 
looking and hoping for a little opening in the fence where you can 
slip through, but you never find it. That's what happens when you try 
to make a film with people who are not essentially film-makers. I have 
tried to do the best I could with every picture I've been in. But all my 
experience has taught me that films, to be any good, should be made 
by film-makers. By Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo 
Antonioni, Roberto Rossellini, John Huston, Stanley Kramer, Billy 
Wilder, William Wyler not all necessarily in the same class but all 
film-makers. A film-maker is somebody who is able to exercise com- 
plete authority over the film he is making. 

I went back to Hollywood in the summer of 1959 and made an in- 
nocuous, pointless film for Columbia Pictures called "All the Young 
Men." It had no rhyme or reason. It was a waste of time. I played a 
Marine sergeant who took command of his unit in a perilous situation 



in Korea. Why spend a million dollars producing a picture about war 
that makes no salient point about war, pro or con, and is hardly a work 
of art? That movie was a menagerie of violent exercises in human de- 
struction. You saw an awful lot of people blown up, you saw an awful 
lot of places bombed, and by the last reel you were asking "Why?" Just 
to kill some time. I was unable to work in that movie, even on an ele- 
mentary level, with any degree of imagination. The producers seemed 
willing to settle for what would have been the first step in a stage re- 
hearsal, and print it. I signed for it while I was in New Haven with 
"Raisin in the Sun." I was committed to do it. The original script 
said an awful lot about people and war, but then we didn't do what 
was in the script. On the other hand, I enjoyed making "A Raisin in 
the Sun" as a film. I knew every facet of the character and of the play, 
and I felt I had control and was able to take care of myself. However, 
the next year, "Paris Blues," in which I played a jazz musician, was all 
wrong from beginning to end. The novel on which the movie was os- 
tensibly based really went into the lives of jazz musicians in Paris, but 
what we did was not that. Also, the original script I read, by a wonder- 
ful screenwriter named Irene Kamp, was not the script we wound up 
with. By the time we were finished, five other writers had been called 
in, one after another, to change the script according to some idea that 
one or another of a dozen people connected with the movie had for 
making it a success. It was a shambles. I found out once and for all 
that a bunch of people can't do it. One person has to do it. A group of 
people engaged in a collaborative creative effort must respond to one 
person. Mistakes are probably going to be made, but they will be the 
mistakes of one person, and so they won't be so bad, A halfhearted mis- 
take is a devastating mistake. 

When I act on the stage, it's a total experience. With me as with 
other actors, I believe it's quite a job to prevent the work from be- 
coming mechanical. You have to find ways to keep refuelling the im- 
pulse. You can't hang an impulse up on a peg and then take it down 
the next night. It's instantaneous. It cannot be repeated. If you try to 
harness it, you take away the newness of it. But it has to be manufac- 
tured synthetically when things aren't going right when your energy 
is low, when you've eaten too much, when you haven't cleansed your 
mind of your own thoughts and worries so you can flood it with the 
part you're playing. You cannot will a response. When I feel good and 



right, I experience complete communication with the audience. But 
each performance is different, and if I expected to feel that good every 
night, I'd be disappointed. There's no one way of acting, but my way 
is to try to feel the experience of the moment and to have each moment 
flow out of the last and into the next. 

There is a sense of self that is important to me when I try to work 
creatively. I find it in what I think of as the gears of the mind. So 
far, I've discovered only three speeds, but maybe there are more. At 
the most common speed, the mind is open to all distractions and sensa- 
tions. It is giving constant attention to one or another of a thousand 
different things. At the second speed, the mind is working between two 
opposites, feverishly, because it wants something and is evaluating 
things in order to put them to use. The third gear is the idle gear. 
That's the gear we live in all too little, the gear we shift into after a 
hard day's work, when we couldn't care less whether anything happens 
or not. That's when all your thoughts are held momentarily in abey- 
ance. You have just enough of a buzz on to encourage the opposite of 
good sense. I get myself into a part by shifting my gears in that order. 
When I go from second to third, I'm shifting from the battle of the op- 
posites to a state of timelessness. All I know about it is that that's what 
happens when I act. It feels good. For me, acting is a refuge and a res- 
pite from the battle of the opposites: to be successful or not to be suc- 
cessful, to go home or not to go home, to smoke or not to smoke, 
to eat lobster or not to eat lobster to be or not to be. The only way 
I can transcend the battle is to act. When I play someone else, I am 
no longer caught in the battle; the person I'm playing is caught. I ac- 
cept someone else's circumstances and I cease to function as Sidney 
Poitier. I have peace. I feel it. It's now. It's great. It's encompassing. 
It's got you. You're secure. Everything you do is absolutely meant to be 
done. It leads you, every now and then, to transcend the battle so com- 
pletely that you give a performance that is absolutely shattering, even 
to yourself. 

People call me an artist. Even though I don't deserve it most of the 
time, it's nice to hear. Only, I always ask myself, "Now, what have I 
created?" And that immediately pushes me back into the battle. I'm 
always asking myself whether or not I'm an actor. The essence of the 
actor is a composite of his physical construction, his voice, his disposi- 
tion, and the intangibles of his own character. I'm always asking myself 



what makes the difference when he walks onstage, instead of somebody 
else. What is it that creates the illusion for the audience? Acting is not 
only an interpretive art, it's a creative art. A play stands as still as 
death itself unless the actor brings it to life. People aren't going to get 
up off the paper and walk around. The actors do that for them. 



I know that someday I'm going to play Shakespeare's 

I was born on November 21, 1941, in London, during the blitz. 
My father is the actor John Mills, and my mother is Mary Hayley 
Bell Mills, the playwright and novelist. My godmother is Vivien 
Leigh, and my godfather is Noel Coward. My little sister, Hayley, 
has played in "Tiger Bay/' with my father, and in "Pollyanna" 
and other movies. I also have a little brother, Jonathan, born in 
1949, who wants to be an actor. I never had any doubt that I 
would be an actress. When I was a very small child, my mother would 
pack a lunch and take me to the motion-picture studio where rny 
father was making a movie, and the three of us would have lunch 
together. My mother is like a little mother hen, always running around 
the world trying to keep us all together. Since Hayley became a movie 
star, Mother has had to stay with her in Hollywood when she makes 
a film there, and she doesn't like it there, so she leaves whenever she 
can bring us all together again. I love my godparents. Whenever 
Vivien Leigh needs me to talk to, I'll be there. 



I've always wanted to be an actress, and really wanted to act. I 
never wanted my appearance to be the main thing. I do worry about 
my weight, because I have a tendency to be on the plump side. But 
just think of Charles Laughton. Right from the start, he was on the 
plump side, but look at the wonderful actor he turned out to be. 
Or Shelley Winters, who gets heavy once in a while, yet is such a 
good actress. So your appearance can't really stand in your way. 
When I was nine, my father sent me to ballet school. He told me 
that learning to dance would help me learn to act. Dancing gave 
me control of my body, and grace in my movements onstage. By the 
time I was sixteen, I was dancing five hours a day. I stopped when I 
got my first stage role, in "Five Finger Exercise," which I played in 
the West End and on Broadway. I had gone to a toddlers' school in 
Kensington and then to the Old Vicarage School, in Richmond, Surrey, 
and after that, at the age of nine, to Elmhurst, a private boarding 
school just outside London. There was no question of my going 
to college. In England, the only girls who go to college are the type 
who expect to become doctors. I've never thought about getting 
married, but then you never know, do you? A lot of girls I've known 
kept saying they were never going to get married, and then suddenly 
I would be getting invitations to their weddings. I believe that every 
girl should go to boarding school. At boarding school, I found out 
how lucky I was to have such a happy home. At school, every 
person is an individual, and you have to cope with her. I wanted 
to be head girl, and our headmistress did pick me. My last year at 
school, we did a play about the French Revolution. I played a very 
old, filthy, grotesque revolutionist. I loved it. At Elmhurst, I worked 
in dramatics. When Hayley started to act, I wrote a play .about an 
orphanage, with a special part for Hayley called Angel one of the 
orphans, who is deaf and dumb, and a boy. Hayley's got a face all 
her own. I've already been in three films with my father, and I'd 
like someday to be in a play with both Hayley and my father. 

I love to go to movies, and I especially love the movies starring 
my father. I've seen "Great Expectations" thousands of times. That's 
my favorite. When I was four and used to watch him making the 
movie at the studio, I could never see any similarity between watch- 
ing him in front of the camera and actually watching the movie. 
When I see "Great Expectations," I get thoroughly involved in the 



film. There's a scene in the beginning where a little boy is suddenly 
confronted in a graveyard by a convict. It used to frighten me. For 
years, I had nightmares about that scene. Even now, I can watch 
my father making a movie and then, when I see the film, get all in- 
volved in it. I haven't learned anything at all from watching movies 
being made. Everything I've learned has been from watching people. 
I watch people on the street when I'm walking. I watch them in 
shops when I'm doing my marketing. I watch them in Central Park, 
at the Wollman Memorial, where I go skating when I'm in New 
York. I'm aware of how people behave when they think no one is 
looking at them. A good actor also watches the good or bad points 
in other actors' performances. I'm always thinking of how I could do 
a part that someone else is playing. In New York, after the theatre, 
I go to old movies and watch the way the actors do their parts. 

More than anything else, I want to play Juliet at Stratford. I 
know I can do it better than anyone else. Nearly always, actresses who 
play Juliet are women in their thirties or forties. Producers seem to 
think that older women can understand Juliet's feelings better than 
a girl who is actually Juliet's age. I think I know how Juliet felt, and 
understand what she did. I think I understand a lot more about 
Juliet than women in their thirties do. I think women in their thirties 
have forgotten how a girl feels when she's in her teens and in love. 

Everyone I admire leads a disciplined life. Personally, I hate getting 
up late. I never drink. I don't smoke. When I'm in a play, I am 
usually in bed by 1 A.M. and up by 10 A.M. I like to do things and 
see things. In New York, I have gone for rides on the Staten Island 
ferry a dozen times, and I love taking the boat that circles the island 
of Manhattan. I've seen through the glamour and excitement of the 
theatre since I was ten. I knew by then that all was not bright lights 
and greasepaint. All the marvellous applause can be exciting and in- 
spiring, but it can also be nerve-racking and disappointing if you 
aren't succeeding at what you are doing. I can still be impressed 
by an actor, though. When I first met Montgomery Clift, I could 
hardly speak. 

When I'd played in "Five Finger Exercise*' for two years, I got a 
little bored in my part. I'd explored every corner of it, it seemed. 
The thought of getting stale simply terrified me. It's very important 
to me to feel my own individuality in acting. I want to be me. When 



I started working on my part for "Five Finger Exercise," I didn't 
learn the role line by line. At rehearsals, when I was asked whether 
I could do this or that, I'd say yes to everything. Then I'd try it out 
on the quiet by myself. For example, I had to fall down some stairs 
in the play. I didn't know how to do it at first. I would come to the 
theatre very early and try it out by myself, and that way I learned 
how to do it. The best way is not to think about it, just to do it. 

I have no ambition to have a flat of my own in London. We live in 
the country, and unless I get a good part I just want to stay home. I 
don't see enough of Hayley. Whenever I talk to her on the telephone 
and she's far away someplace, she cries. Daddy says that to be a good 
actor you have to have something in you. You can let it go or you 
can do something with it. A great deal can be learned, but not unless 
you have the talent to begin with. Acting is a gamble. You are paid 
only when you are working. It is also an adventure. From month to 
month, you have no idea what is around the corner. Acting is definitely 
an art, but, as in all art, there are good artists and bad artists. Some 
actors get into a rut and then don't seem to make any effort to get 
out of it. They seem to enjoy their own misery in staying in the rut. 
They never ask themselves what it is they are doing. I think it is in 
your own hands whether or not your acting makes you happy 
makes you feel good about what you are doing. England has lots of 
repertory companies. I'll join one of them and look for new and 
different roles. I think I'm going to be a good actress. 



Once you make up your mind about what you're 
going to do in acting, you can pretty well slot it. I 
like to think of emotions as being a series of cloaks 
hung on pegs; I take them down as I find I need them. 

I was born on April 17, 1918, in O'Fallon, Illinois. My real name is 
William Franklin Beedle, Jr. When I was three, my father, a chemist, 
moved the family to Pasadena, California, where he went into the 
chemical-analysis business. My brother Bob was a Navy pilot who 
died at the age of twenty-one; he was shot down in the South Pacific 
on January 1, 1944. My brother Dick is in business with my father in 
Los Angeles. My mother taught English in the Pasadena and Monrovia 
school systems for many years, then retired, and now is active in 
various church groups. My father, an amateur gymnast, gave me spe- 
cial lessons in tumbling and physical training. My mother encouraged 
me to sing in church choirs and to mind my manners. I played my 
first dramatic part at the age of ten Rip Van Winkle in my school's 
annual sixth-grade play. I kind of liked it. At Pasadena Junior Col- 
lege, I studied chemistry, which I hated. Everybody in the family but 
me took it for granted that I would go into my father's chemical 
business. In 1938, I got my first big acting opportunity, in the Pas- 



adena Workshop Theatre's production of "Manya," a play about 
Marie Curie. I played the part of her father-in-law, eighty-year-old 
Eugene Curie. I was seen on opening night by Milton Lewis, a talent 
scout from Paramount Pictures. A couple of years earlier, I had taken 
a seven-month auto trip with a friend. We had visited New York, 
and I had decided then to go to New York after graduation from 
college and study acting. Instead, two weeks after I was seen by the 
scout I signed a contract with Paramount at a salary of fifty dollars 
a week, and had a part in "Million Dollar Legs" in which I said two 
words "Thank you." I was one of a group of promising youngsters 
known at Paramount as the Golden Circle, which also included Betty 
Field and Robert Preston. I wanted to be the best motion-picture 
actor in the world. My heroes were Fredric March and Spencer 
Tracy. They were my ideals. I used them as a kind of goal for myself. 
I had enough of the extrovert in me to want that kind of recognition. 
Paramount took stock of my hobbies: in addition to doing gymnastics, I 
liked to ride my motorcycle at very high speeds; I was an expert 
horseman and rifle shot; I played the piano, clarinet, and drums. The 
studio executives decided that I needed a new name. "Beedle," 
they said, sounded too much like an insect. So I was named Holden, 
after a West Coast newspaperman. 

Rouben Mamoulian, at Columbia Pictures, saw my screen test and 
hired me for the title role in "Golden Boy," with Barbara Stanwyck 
and Adolphe Menjou. It was my starting point. I don't think anybody 
had as much determination and ambition as I had the day I started 
making this movie. Then, one day in 1939, I went to the opening 
of "Golden Boy" and saw my name up on the marquee. There was my 
name in lights. And I suddenly knew that it didn't mean a damn 
thing to me. It's been that way ever since. I don't enjoy seeing myself 
on the screen. You might say I'm not my type. I'm ugly. I'm too fat 
and would like to be thinner. I'm simpdtico with people who are not 
gross. For twenty-two years, I've put up with a lot of asinine sug- 
gestions made by various studio experts about how to change myself 
to fix the shape of my eyebrows, and stuff like that but I've always 
refused to do it. I may not like the way I look, but I take myself the 
way I am and do the best I can with it. Being a movie star and seeing 
myself on the screen don't make me feel good. In fact, they make 
me feel kind of sad. But I .do the best I can with all that, too. 



I'm not like Garbo or Gregory Peck. I can walk down Fifth Avenue 
and I won't have any trouble with people staring at me. They don't 
recognize me. I just look like one of them. I think of myself as a fair 
contemporary actor-reporter of scenes in which people pretty much 
like me figure. I never think of myself as an actor the way Alec 
Guinness is an actor. He can do anything. He's completely devoted 
to acting. He can act anywhere. I can act only in films, and even there 
I'm limited. I'm best at playing someone relevant to our lives today. 
Rarely have I stepped into a period film. I've just never felt qualified 
to do it. When I work, I work hard, and I always try to satisfy my 
own taste. I'm not a great believer in audience appeal or in fans. I 
don't believe the fans establish the criterion in films. I think we 
establish the criterion for the fans. The motion picture is not a pure 
art form. It has its place as a business art form, and I'd hate to see 
it die out. I've made a good living out of acting, but I'm not dedicated 
to it. I can see how men like John Gielgud and Alec Guinness, who 
give the work their complete devotion, must get a deeper satisfaction 
out of it than I do. I have my hand in a lot of business interests. 
Anyone with as many diverse interests as I have couldn't get that 
really deep satisfaction out of acting. I could probably out-operate 
Alec Guinness in any field of business, and I get some satisfaction out 
of that. These days, because of the international distribution of pic- 
tures, my work as an actor involves not only acting in a movie but go- 
ing on the road with it, all over the country or all over the world, to 
sell it. After all, I pour the original energy into the acting, and I feel I 
might as well do the other. However, I refuse to ingratiate myself with 
the public in ways I don't respect. I haven't given a fan-magazine inter- 
view in the past dozen years. But what I will do is go on the road to 
sell a picture. 

During the first few days of work on "Golden Boy," I was so 
intense I found myself on the verge of a nervous collapse. Then 
Barbara Stanwyck, one of the stars of the movie, spent night after 
night, after a hard day's work, rehearsing with me, and she pulled me 
through. For the past twenty-two years, I've sent her flowers to com- 
memorate the anniversary of the day that work on "Golden Boy" 
began. That picture was a high point for a beginning; after that 
things went down. I spent the next couple of years playing ordinary 
roles in ordinary movies. I didn't feel that my talents, major or 



minor, were being fully utilized. In 1941, I married Ardis Ankerson, 
a young actress known to the public as Brenda Marshall. At my re- 
quest, she gave up acting as a career. She had a three-year-old daughter, 
Virginia, whom I adopted legally. Ardis and I had two children to- 
gether Peter, who is seventeen, and Scott, who is fifteen. Eight months 
after I was married, I enlisted in the Army Air Forces, and for four 
years I did public-relations and entertainment duty and made training 
films all over the country. In 1946, I returned to Paramount, where I 
got into the rut of playing all kinds of nice-guy, meaningless roles in 
meaningless movies, such as "Father Is a Bachelor" and "Dear Wife/' 
in which I found neither interest nor enjoyment. By 1949, I had ap- 
peared in eleven movies that, for me, added up to one great big static 
blur. Then, in 1950, I played the part of Joe Gillis, the opportunistic, 
caddish writer in "Sunset Boulevard," with Gloria Swanson. It was a 
turning point for me. I not only found the part interesting and ex- 
citing but was noticed and liked by the critics. In 1953, I played an- 
other interesting part Sefton, the amoral sergeant in "Stalag 17." 
I won an Oscar for it. In the meantime, I did assorted odd jobs out- 
side of acting. I worked as vice-president of the Screen Actors Guild. I 
was Commissioner of Parks and Recreation in Los Angeles. I de- 
veloped interests and partnerships in businesses such as exporting and 
importing, aviation, and radio stations here and abroad. I now have 
a large measure of control over what I do in pictures and how I do it. 
I receive a percentage of the gross of all pictures I make, pretty much 
the way Gary Grant and James Stewart do. 

Long before I realized the power of the dollar, I had a tendency to 
express myself. Fortunately, I was able to combine the two. As a boy, 
I'd see things in movie acting that cried for a better interpretation. I 
always felt that, with a little study, I could do them much better. Just 
before I signed my first contract, I was a little vague about it, but I 
wasn't floundering. I wasn't old enough to flounder. I've always had 
an idea of what was right for me and what was wrong. In making my 
first movies, whenever I felt lost or puzzled I had one simple way of 
working my way out of it. I'd always ask myself, "Well, what would 
Fredric March do? What would Gary Cooper do?" And it would al- 
ways solve the problem for me. I'm not like some movie actors, who 
feel that they must pretend they're just dying to act in the theatre. 
I've been tempted by it only once, when I briefly thought about doing 



"Mister Roberts." Henry Fonda was in it then, and he had some kind 
of knee trouble. But I didn't replace him, and that was all right with 
me. I've never pretended I could be an Alec Guinness in the theatre. 

Movie acting may not have a certain kind of glory as a true art, but 
it's acting, and it's damn hard work. You kiss your wife goodbye at 
eight in the morning, and an hour later you're on a set pretending 
to be killing somebody or whispering sweet nothings into some glam- 
our girl's ear. It's a terrible emotional drain. It's devastating. The 
most demanding thing about it is that you must keep up the level of 
your performance. The way I do it is to think of myself as a reporter. 
My job is to portray the character and bring it to the audience in a 
way that will enable them to involve themselves emotionally. I read 
a script and analyze it. I find that if you develop an attitude toward the 
character the mannerisms for it come later. You attempt to stay as 
detached as possible. Then there's a kind of final melting in your mind 
about a week before the picture is supposed to start. Once you're in 
it, you're involved in how you're going to develop the character. Once 
I'm fairly entrenched, I find that the character almost takes care of 
itself. Then the demands on you are the demands of a particular day 
of work. It's terribly exhausting. My most difficult roles have always 
been ones that are unlike me. Still, I've been able to find their 
motivation acceptable. If you're going to be Gillis in "Sunset 
Boulevard," for example, you must get it across that there but for 
the grace of God go I. I may not be able to understand Gillis, a gigolo, 
but I can sympathize with him. I've found that sympathy is about all 
you need if you want to act a different kind of person from your real 
self. When I was doing the part of Sefton in "Stalag 17," I had a 
really tough time sympathizing with him the way he used marked 
cards, and all the rest of his unscrupulousness. What I used to go on 
was my observation of men like that. I've seen them. I know what 
they're like. I'm not sure how to explain the talent or whatever it is 
that makes it possible for me to act by using that approach. Maybe it's 
just knowing a little more than the next guy. As I tell my older boy, 
who has some interest in acting, you'll know if you have talent when 
you get there. 

In every man's life, there's a period when he determines how his 
energies are going to be directed. Every man has a basic problem in 
deciding that. My decision was, is, and will be to be a good motion- 



picture actor. Between the ages of twenty-nine and thirty-six, I had a 
period when I was easily able to handle a lot of outside activities. 
I don't kid myself that I can still work an eighteen-hour day. I 
hate to become sloppy. In 1956, I made a picture called "Toward the 
Unknown/' for which I was an actor by day and, by night, a caster, 
a cutter, and a producer. I'll never do anything like that again. My 
blueprint is to make one very important picture a year one that is not 
only artistically satisfying to me but successful at the box office. Ideally, 
I'd like to spend six or seven months on my vocation and five or 
six months on my avocational activities. One of my pet avocational 
projects is the Mount Kenya Safari Club, which I started with two 
other men Carl Hirschmann, a Swiss banker, and Ray Ryan, an oil- 
man from Indiana. We bought the Mawingo Hotel the name means 
"The Clouds" on the slopes of Mount Kenya, outside the town of 
Nanyuki. We've got sixty acres, with fruit and vegetable gardens, ten- 
nis courts, swimming pools, trout streams, and a hundred and twenty 
servants, and also five hundred adjacent acres, complete with an Afri- 
can village, as well as the prize rose garden on the continent. Our mem- 
bers include John Wayne and Winston Churchill. We're about twelve 
thousand miles from Hollywood, and about six thousand miles from 
St. Prex, Switzerland, where I now make my home. From the club, 
you can get to Hollywood in one full day. These are, after all, times 
of galloping transportation. I take care of a million things in my 
import-export business importing electronic equipment from Tokyo, 
and things like that. After all that avocational activity, I get back to 
acting and I feel refreshed. 



You have to act with joy, and not mislocate the center 
of the emotions, which is in the head, not in the 
stomach. The center of the emotions is right above the 

I was born on November 16, 1908, in Cleveland, Ohio. My father, 
William George Meredith, was a doctor, but he gave up the practice 
of medicine early, retired, and moved to Canada. My parents separated 
then; I was four, and I stayed with my mother, who was the daughter 
of a well-known Methodist minister in Cleveland. I was the youngest of 
three children. My brother, George, who was born in 1895, started 
out as a jazz drummer and later became a farmer in New England; 
he died in 1960. My sister, Virginia, who lives in Nashua, New 
Hampshire, and is married to an engineer, is fifteen years older than I 
am, and helped bring me up. My sister has never missed one of my 
openings, and she sees every movie I'm in. My parents died in the 
thirties. I lived in Cleveland until I was eight, when my mother took 
me to New York, because I had a scholarship to the Paulist Choir 
School, a Roman Catholic school. In 1920, 1 entered the choir school at 
the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, because it was closer to my reli- 
gion. I was a famous boy soprano in town, and won various prizes for 
my singing. At St. John, there were about forty students in all, and we 
had prayers, athletics, and regular school subjects, with very good 
teachers. The background there was beautiful and cultural, and we 



were all proud of the cathedral. On Sundays, we sang in the cathedral, 
which was rather difficult, because the services were often long, and 
some of the choir boys would faint. The choir music was lovely. I 
especially liked the Palestrina and Bach things. When I was a student 
at St. John and this happened to me at other schools, too the teach- 
ers took a liking to me. When I was about ten, I played the title role in 
a Paulist School production of "Peter Pan," and got the feeling some- 
how that I was very good in it. My teachers would speak of it in later 
years. I had the ability to take on a part quickly. I saw my first play 
"Cyrano de Bergerac," with Walter Hampden when one of the teach- 
ers at St. John took some of the boys to a matinee performance. I was 
fifteen at the time. I remember the strength and power of Hampden's 
performance. He had one of those big, resonant voices, almost nasal, 
and utterly magnificent. The nose, the duelling, the balcony scene it 
was all very glamorous and moving. Mostly, though, I was influenced 
by my teachers. The years at the school were a good time for me. My 
sister was married by then and was living near New York, with her hus- 
band, and I was allowed to go out with them. In 1923, when I was 
fifteen, I started attending the Hoosac School, in Hoosick, New York. 
It, too, was a church school, but it didn't have much in the way of sing- 
ing or dramatics. I was head prefect at one time, though I was a spo- 
radic student without much drive. I was very bad at mathematics. I al- 
ways thought I would be a writer, and I wrote short stories and poems 
for the school magazine, of which I was editor in my final year. My 
sister kept all the old magazines for years. One of the great non- 
tragedies of our lives was a fire she had in her house in which all the old 
magazines were burned up. At Hoosac, too, the teachers liked me. The 
headmaster recommended me for Aniherst College, and I went there. 
I didn't like Amherst, and stayed there only four months. I was ap- 
palled by the social snobbery. 

From Amherst, I went to Stamford, where my mother was staying 
with her sister, and I got a job on the Stamford Advocate. I thought it 
was a good and romantic thing to be a newspaperman. I wrote obitu- 
aries and covered Darien for a few months and then decided it was 
not so good and not so romantic. Then, when I was eighteen, I went 
to live with my sister, in East Orange, while I looked for a job in New 
York. After that came a whole series of experiments, of the kind that 
everybody goes through working as a runner on Wall Street, selling 



neckties at Macy's, a six-week trip to South America on a freighter in a 
brass-polishing job. By then, I'd decided that I wanted to be an actor. 
I ran across an old piano teacher from the choir-school days, who sug- 
gested that I try out for an apprentice job with Eva Le Gallienne's 
Civic Repertory Theatre, on West Fourteenth Street, so I went down 
there, asked for an appointment with Miss Le Gallienne, and got it. 
Right away. She didn't talk with me more than fifteen minutes, and 
she said, "Why do you want to be in the theatre? There's no money 
connected with it, and we have a long waiting list." But she took me 
on. The moment I walked in there, it all felt comfortable and right. 
It was just an old, musty, broken-down building, with the dressing 
rooms tacked on at the back, and she was running it as a one-woman 
enterprise, but it was theatre, and full of atmosphere. Many famous 
people were there, including John Garfield, Jacob Ben-Ami, Alia 
Nazimova, J. Edward Bromberg, Howard da Silva, Paula Strasberg, 
and Ria Mooney, who was in charge of the apprentices and is now a 
producer and an actress with the Abbey Theatre, in Dublin. For two 
years, I was at the Civic Rep as an apprentice without pay. My sister 
supported me in those years, and by the spring of 1930 I was paid 
twenty dollars a week. I received lessons in fencing, dancing, and 
improvisation, and my constant association with a good repertory 
company gave me a kind of training that is pretty special in this 
country. I'm not a fellow who can concentrate greatly, and never have 
been, but I felt immediately that I could make a go of acting. I en- 
joyed it. I didn't have many doubts. The main source of stimulation at 
the Civic Rep was Le Gallienne. She was a leader, and she was glamor- 
ous and talented and full of idealism. We were then on the threshold 
of a decade of idealism, and it all seemed so right to me. Le Gallienne 
was a very precise director, as she is today. Her fight was a fight on the 
side of the angels. It was a very exciting thing for me. We played every 
night except Sunday, and we had a new play every four weeks. I felt 
I was a part of a living organism. My first speaking part was that of 
Peter, the servant to Juliet's nurse, in "Romeo and Juliet." Le Gal- 
lienne played Juliet, and was very famous in the role. She was only 
thirty-one at the time. She believed in the classics and exposed you to 
them. We did a lot of the Russian things, especially Chekhov. She was 
always encouraging and helpful and kind, and she had humor. I re- 
member that she charged a two-twenty top for tickets, and never took 



anything for herself. The Civic Rep embodied an ideal of hers. There's 
never been anything like it since. 

In the summer of 1932, I played a season of stock. I was with three 
different companies but always in the same part Marchbanks in 
Shaw's "Candida/' I played it in Mount Kisco and Ivoryton, and then, 
with Pauline Lord and Tom Powers, in Philadelphia, where first- 
string critics reviewed it. The critics praised me, extravagantly, and that 
kind of lit the fuse. I began to feel I wanted to move on. I had an 
urge to move uptown. Early in 1933, I left the Civic Rep. I gave my 
notice in the middle of the run of "Alice in Wonderland," in which 
I played the Duck and the Dormouse and Tweedle-Dee, and I went 
into a walk-on part Crooked Finger Jack in Bertolt Brecht's and Kurt 
Weill's "The Threepenny Opera," then trying out in Philadelphia. 
"The Threepenny Opera" lasted twelve performances on Broadway, 
and I didn't get to play in it there at all, because while we were still 
in Philadelphia I was offered the lead the role of Red Barry in 
Albert Bein's "Little OF Boy," which was about the horrors of life in 
a reform school, and I took it, commuting from Philadelphia to re- 
hearsals in New York until I got my release from "The Threepenny 
Opera." The play also lasted for twelve performances on Broadway, 
but I made all there was to be made in the way of reputation out of it. 
O. O. Mclntyre called me "the most thrilling young actor of his day," 
and Stark Young wrote that my performance was "as near perfection as 
could be imagined." 

I wasn't surprised to be playing leads so soon after starting in the 
theatre, because I could get right into a part, just as I had done as 
a boy at school. And I had had good training at the Civic Rep. 
As Marchbanks in "Candida," I probably had a kind of vitality 
and realism that were just beginning to come into the theatre. 
Looking back, I remember that the words used about me were "real- 
istic" and "sensitive." What I did was to believe absolutely in the cir- 
cumstances I found myself in onstage, so that the play was an actual 
experience for me and the emotions were real to me. We didn't have 
Methodology at that time, but later on I sought it. In 1937, after I had 
starred in "Winterset," I studied with Benno Schneider, who gave les- 
sons much like the ones given at the Actors' Studio now teaching im- 
provisation, memory of emotions, intention, being able to verbalize 
what you do, so that you can put your finger on it instead of leaving it 



to God. Sooner or later, especially if you're in a long run, you have to 
find a way of putting your finger on what you do. The interesting thing 
I discovered with Schneider is that emotions on the stage come from 
your head, and that you have to bring them from there. When I see 
young actors dragging emotion up from their middles, I try to tell 
them it's a mistake. 

Immediately after "Little OF Boy/' I was offered several parts. Then 
and later, I made some dubious choices too many of them. I had my 
choice between the lead in "She Loves Me Not" and the lead in "To- 
bacco Road," and I chose the former. It was a farce comedy by Howard 
Lindsay, and I had a very gay part. The play was a smash hit, and it 
opened new horizons for me. I realized I was arriving. You could tell 
that people recognized me, on the street, in restaurants. I was both glad 
and worried. I began to wonder whether I was making the right choices 
for my own development as an actor. My mother died during re- 
hearsals of "She Loves Me Not," and that made it an unhappy time. 
My father saw the play and liked it. I had been living in a one-room 
cold-water flat over a plumbing shop on Hudson Street, and now I 
moved into a two-bedroom apartment on East Sixty-seventh Street, and 
hired a butler. I didn't have any trouble at all adjusting to the but- 
ler. If you have a streak of laziness in you, you know what you want 
done by a butler. It got complicated a bit later on, though, when I had 
two butlers. Things piled up rather fast. I played in "She Loves 
Me Not" for a year in 1933 and 1934 and simultaneously I was 
doing a soap opera on radio, in which I played a character named Red 
Davis, whose name was later changed to Pepper Young. In 1934, 
Guthrie McClintic, who was always interested in the new young actors, 
had me come up to his office and said he hoped to have a part for me 
someday. The next year, he asked me to play a small part in a revival of 
"The Barretts of Wimpole Street," starring his wife, Katharine Cornell. 
I enjoyed working with them. She was always very warm, very protec- 
tive, very maternal. If McClintic yelled at me, she'd find some way of 
touching my arm, to give me reassurance. I found McClintic an 
extraordinarily effective director. He was a great raconteur, and dur- 
ing rehearsals he'd spend half the time telling you stories, to get you 
into the spirit of the theatre, of the play, of your part. Then he would 
get these flashes for the high points of the play, and act them out for 
you. He did it in a kind of broad caricature, so that you wouldn't 



imitate him but would see just what it was that he wanted you to 
do. He was not a man who went into theory. He loved the theatre and 
felt a tremendous awe of it, and somehow he transmitted it all to you 
in a way that worked for you. After "The Barretts of Wimpole Street," 
I worked with Katharine Cornell and McClintic again, in John Van 
Druten's play "Flowers of the Forest." In fact, I was associated with 
McClintic for several years, and also in "Winterset," "High Tor," and 
"The Star-Wagon" with Maxwell Anderson and Jo Mielziner. After 
doing "Winterset" on the stage, I went out to Hollywood, for the first 
time, to act in the movie version. Hollywood has always proved very 
difficult for me to function in. 

In 1932, between seasons at the Civic Rep, I got married for the first 
time to Helen Derby Berrien, a girl from Montclair, New Jersey. 
My second wife was the actress Margaret Perry, the daughter of An- 
toinette Perry, after whom the theatre award is named. We were mar- 
ried during the run of "Winterset." She was very charming, but that 
marriage didn't last, either, and we were divorced in 1938. I had five 
years of bachelorhood during the Second World War, when I was 
called into the Army Air Forces, where I was assigned to the Air 
Transport Command but was given time to make orientation films, 
like "Welcome to Britain" and "Salute to France/ 1 My next wife was 
Paulette Goddard. I'm married now to Kaja Sundsten, a former 
dancer, and we have two children Jonathan, born in 1951, and Tala, 
born the following year. They're lovely kids. We live near Suffern, in 
a house I built. My wife has a Cessna 182 Sky lane, which she 
keeps at the Teterboro Airport and Spring Valley Airpark, and she 
instructs student pilots in instrument flying. When I'm working in a 
play in Chicago or Philadelphia, and have to go to Idlewild to catch 
a big plane, she flies me around. It makes it handy. Once, she flew me 
to Westhampton, left me at the theatre, and then told some people 
she had to beat it back home because she had a turkey in the oven. 

In 1938, I embarked on a program of doing a lot of different things, 
including being acting president of Actors' Equity, which someone 
should have been but not I. I was fascinated then by the talents of 
Orson Welles I still am and I joined him in his production of 
"Five Kings," based on "Henry IV," Parts I and II and "Henry V." 
We thought we'd combine our immortal geniuses, but we shared colos- 
sal disaster instead. Our plans didn't come off. Neither Orson nor I 



was the kind of person who could organize things. I played Henry as 
Prince and King, and he played Falstaff, but we closed out of 
town and "Five Kings" never got to New York. I've never known 
anybody I could have more fun with than Orson. At the time, I was 
searching for something. I wasn't disciplined. And Orson was so re- 
markable and refreshing, and had done things with such imagination, 
like the modern-dress "Julius Caesar" and the all-colored "Macbeth." 
He was a child of the theatre and was doing new, great things. Those 
were the days of turning away from the status quo, of finding new 
forms that seemed to be an end in themselves. I felt myself retreating 
from the position of conservatism I had settled into with McClintic 
and Anderson. I was going off with people who felt that acting wasn't 
important that what was important was saving the world. The New 
Deal was so exciting, and there were so many causes to take up and 
so many committees to be on. There was nothing like the Actors' 
Studio in those days. Today the actor is working at his craft and isn't 
ashamed to say that he likes it and that the theatre is a fine thing in 
itself. Still, in everything I did from that point on, I was learning, and 
I have never stopped being interested in new forms. The only thing I 
regret is never having had an opportunity to be exposed to the classic 
theatre, which I think is sort of right for my nature poetic, if you like. 
There was no place I could go for it. I had success fall into my lap 
when I was twenty-four, and as I look back I feel some sorrow that I 
didn't go to the Old Vic for classical training. Today there are about 
ten good British actors for every good one we have here. Great actors 
get that way by using their muscles on the classics. 

In April, 1942, 1 was granted a leave by the Air Forces to play March- 
banks in a benefit revival of "Candida," by the American Theatre 
Wing War Service with Katharine Cornell and Dudley Digges. Richard 
Maney called it one of the ten great productions of all time. In March, 
1940, just before going into the Army, I had played in "Liliom," with 
Ingrid Bergman and Elia Kazan, and in 1944 I was placed on inactive 
status to play Ernie Pyle in the movie about him, "The Story of G.I. 
Joe." Also before entering the service, I'd been in the film of John 
Steinbeck's novel "Of Mice and Men," and later, with Paulette God- 
dard, I spent three years in Hollywood another of my regrets. I 
shouldn't have gone there and tried to beat that racket, though I was 
in quite a few movies, including "The Diary of a Chambermaid/' 



which I wrote and co-produced. Those of us who came up in the 
middle thirties were stirred with a pretty wild spoon. We either fell 
by the wayside or continued up. Elia Kazan went to the top and 
stayed there. Jose Ferrer took a longer time getting started, but he 
got there. My story is a little more hair-raising, because it goes up and 
down. You have to use your creative abilities; otherwise, they swell 
up on you and explode. At least a modicum of your talent must be 
used. When you do things you don't believe in and don't feel, they 
leave a sour taste in your mouth. If you want to see what I mean, go 
out to Hollywood and look at some of the people there. What hap- 
pened to Orson in Hollywood was a tragedy; he attacked Hearst, and 
anyone who attacked Hearst was bound to be pursued. They got 
Chaplin, too, in a way. But the real reason for what happened to 
Welles and Chaplin in Hollywood is that strong individual talent is 
somehow frowned on there. 

I still enjoy trying different things, just as I did when I was with 
Orson. I am fascinated by the problems of directing. While I was 
playing in "Major Barbara," in 1957, 1 started working on plans for the 
production of "Ulysses in Nighttown," with Zero Mostel. It's always the 
style of a thing that intrigues me. ANTA turned the project down, 
saying the play was too off-color, but Barry Hyams, Oliver Saylor, 
Marjorie Barkentin, and a few other private individuals got thirteen 
thousand dollars together for the production. It was great fun, and it 
was all done with our bare hands. When we were trying to think who 
could play the role of Leopold Bloom, we knew it had to be somebody 
very special. I'd always been an admirer of Zero's, and when I asked 
him to play Bloom he was touched. He grasped the part almost im- 
mediately. He didn't have to go very far to find it. He seemed to know 
just what the man was. He is charmed by the characters he plays, and 
he knows them sympathetically, and he approached the part in a way 
that made it really bigger than life. His performance was as impor- 
tant as my own contribution, as director, but I wouldn't have traded 
places with him. We had four weeks' rehearsal, and our group was free 
of any difficult personalities, which is no unimportant thing. And 
Zero was a strong leader. It was one of those happy groups. We played 
in New York for a year and a half, and in the Arts Theatre in London 
and the Theatre Sarah-Bernhardt in Paris, and we won prizes for the 
play all over the world. 



I enjoy directing, but I still like to act when I feel it's called for. 
I find, however, that I'm more involved when I'm thinking of a whole 
production than when I'm just concentrating on what I'm doing with 
the inside of a character. I've experienced marvellous happiness three 
or four times as an actor in the revival of "Candida," for one, when 
I felt I absolutely and finally got Marchbanks. Before that, I'd always 
felt that my parts weren't successful that I didn't have the right 
motivation or the right tensions, or else that something was off. Finally, 
as Marchbanks with Cornell, I was satisfied with my performance. 
Curiously, I felt the same way about Edmund Wilson's play "The 
Little Blue Light," which I did in 1951, with Melvyn Douglas and 
Martin Gabel, and in which I played Gandersheim, a kind of homo- 
sexual, neo-Fascist Christ image. I also enjoyed playing in "The Tea- 
house of the August Moon/' when I took the part of Sakini for the 
road. And I was happy in the 1946 production of "The Playboy of the 
Western World," directed by Guthrie McClintic, when Maureen Staple- 
ton stepped up into the lead at the end of the run and played opposite 
me. But whether a play comes or goes is not so important to me when 
it's set alongside a child or a woman I love, or friends, or the life that I 
lead in general. 



I don't feel the need to be a star. I can walk freely 
through a supermarket without being stopped for my 
autograph. Thafs just fine. 

I was born on March 29, 1919, in Columbus, Ohio. My parents were 
divorced when I was two. My father died when I was about eleven. 
Five or six years later, my mother married a businessman named Van 
H. Purcell; I have a brother and two half sisters. 

My mother loved movies. She would go to two double-feature movies 
a day when I was in high school. Before I could walk, she would take 
me with her. I cut my teeth on Joan Crawford movies. Joan Crawford 
was always so rich, so beautiful, so lavishly dressed, and she dragged 
a mink stole better than anyone else. I made up my mind when I was 
eight that I was going to become an actress. I was attending Girl 
Scout camp at the time, and one of the Scout leaders told me I had 
talent. Once, I played in a camp play. I don't remember a thing about 
it except that the audience laughed. The audience enjoyed me. I 
smelled blood. That start was enough to keep me going for the rest 
of my life. We were always poor. I had to work from high school 
on. By the time I entered Ohio State University, I belonged to five 
different dramatic societies in Columbus. I decided almost at the 



start to be a character actress or a comedienne. I knew I had to be some 
kind of actress, and since I wasn't beautiful, I knew I could never 
expect to become a leading lady. But I knew with everything in me 
that I could act. It took me five years to get through college. I worked 
my way through by selling merchandise in Lazarus, a Columbus 
department store. They put me in what was called the hot-items sec- 
tion. They had a special sale on hot items every day. I was good at 
selling very fast, very persuasive, very sure of myself. Even now, 
when I go shopping I want to grab the sales slip out of the sales 
clerk's hand and make it out myself. I gave makeup demonstrations 
for Max Factor cosmetics, and meanwhile I did commercials for local 
radio stations and, eventually, did drama in radio. I booked fashion 
shows into sorority houses and distributed samples of Philip Morris 
cigarettes to the other kids. In college, I majored in English and 
speech, and I was a very average student. I didn't have time to study. 
I had to travel eight miles by streetcar to get to the campus. But I 
wanted that degree; I wanted to make good. When your family 
doesn't have money, you try to prepare yourself to do anything. I 
knew from the beginning that in acting so many start out and so 
few succeed. I wanted a cushion. The Max Factor people wanted me 
to take a job after graduation demonstrating and selling cosmetics 
in Hollywood or on the road. Lazarus wanted me to represent them 
as a buyer in books or candy. I turned both their offers down. Getting 
through college was a hardship, but I was determined to graduate. I felt 
that if I had that degree I could get any kind of job I wanted. I got by 
in my studies, and I kept up with all the college dramatics. In 1943, 
after graduation, I married a former classmate, John Harrison Yankee, 
Jr., who was in the Navy, stationed in Jacksonville, Florida. He's now 
an insurance broker. We have three little boys, all under ten, and 
we live in New Canaan. My family life is important to me. I love 
my three little boys. Recently, I joined the Roman Catholic Church 
as a convert, by my own choice. Our boys are being raised as 
Catholics. I couldn't devote my life to keeping house. I don't have 
that much creativity in the kitchen. Cooking bores me. When I'm 
onstage, playing a character other than myself, I feel I'm creating. I 
enjoy it. I go out there to play seriously play to win. I loathe ama- 
teurs. It gives me chills to think of myself as part of an amateur actors' 
suburban group, laughing and gossiping. Even when I play bridge, I 



play to win. Once, on location for "Heller in Pink Tights," I stayed 
up four nights in a row playing bridge, because I was determined to 
improve my game. I played seriously. I wouldn't be acting if I weren't 
acting seriously. 

Ten years ago, when I saw movie or stage stars, I'd think how won- 
derful to have your name in lights, your picture in front of the 
theatre. Now I'm grateful for my freedom as a character actress, or 
non-star. In "A Family Affair," the producers said that the show would 
be thrown out of focus if my name didn't appear above the title, with 
Shelley Berman's. I agreed with them, but I am still a character ac- 
tress. The billing just meant that the two leads were equally im- 
portant in the show. A star has to watch herself every second. When 
she shows herself to the public, she has to be sure the public sees her 
as a nice human being. As the star of a show, furthermore, you have 
to carry the entire responsibility for the show, and every other member 
of the cast is dependent on you. Being what I am, I have the freedom to 
accept any role that appeals to me. And my little boys need me to be 
what I am. I want them to become good citizens. I can spend my 
time with them, instead of doing all the things a star has to do to keep 
herself in front of the public all those things that have nothing to 
do with acting but that you are obliged to do to keep the public from 
forgetting you. Stars have to be seen. They have to go to openings of 
plays that they care nothing about. They have to appear on television 
panel shows. They have to keep themselves in demand in demand by 
all those people somewhere in Kansas who can see them only in movies 
and on television. They have to do all that extra work, while I'm 
lounging around in blue jeans with my three little boys. 

At college, my first lead was in "Stage Door," by George S. Kaufman 
and Edna Ferber. I played the lead in George Brewer's and Bertram 
Block's "Dark Victory," and then in one play after another, for three 
years. In school, you play everything and believe you're at your best. 
But New York is different. I came to New York in 1942, just before 
my future husband went into the Navy. After making the rounds of 
producers' offices, I auditioned for the Blackfriars' Guild, a Catholic 
dramatic group, and I did three shows for them. In 1946, I began 
studying at the American Theatre Wing. The Blackfriars were ama- 
teurs. I wasn't satisfied. I kept wandering into one dead end after an- 
other. It was tough. You do need something in this business to lean 



on, something to help you help yourself and accept yourself. All o us 
in this business know each other so well, and yet it's still possible to 
get hurt, and get hurt often. The meek may inherit the earth, but the 
strong survive in the theatre. Acting is not entirely inborn. Only to a 
certain degree is it inborn. Anyone can become a good technician, be- 
come proficient, and have a fairly good life in the theatre. The dif- 
ference between anyone and a great actor is made up of those moments 
in the life of some actors in which they kindle a spark something 
that makes a moment so real that what they are doing becomes great 
acting. Marlon Brando will go down in acting history for having had 
several such moments. Other actors I've watched and admired have 
had those moments Orson Welles in "The Third Man," for instance, 
and Shirley Booth in "Come Back, Little Sheba." Kim Stanley is the 
best young contemporary actress I've ever seen. When she doesn't get 
anything onstage from the other actors, she can be almost as great as 
when she does. And some nights during the run of "Picnic," when 
others did give to her, she became even better. Watching her operate 
is an experience I'll never forget. In my roles, unless the situation is a 
blatantly obvious one I can't tell how I come across. The very friction 
with other actors brings some actors alive. Actors work on each other's 
emotions. They know each other, and the better they know each other, 
the more they have to work on. It wasn't until I got the role of the 
schoolteacher in "Picnic" that I felt I had got my first big break. Ac- 
tually, I played the part for eight months before I felt that I really 
understood it and gave a good performance. I didn't know what I was 
doing. I didn't think I was any good. I was unhappy. I kept telling 
myself to respect myself in the part. It seemed to me that others in the 
cast didn't like what I was doing. I was in a hit, but the kicks were 
fewer than they should have been. I had read four times for the part 
before the director, Joshua Logan, finally said yes to me. I was un- 
known, and he may have thought I couldn't sustain a performance. 
Logan kept trying to tell me I was having my first success I was a 
pro; I couldn't act for a kind of pleasure only; I had to go out there 
and win. I received two awards for my performance in "Picnic," but 
the main thing I learned from it was not to rip myself apart over a 
role. I'm not a natural-born comedienne, like Lucille Ball or Vicki 
Cummings. I don't have that kind of timing or sense of comedy. My 
comedy comes from a situation. But I know how to tune in to an audi- 



ence. These days, I know I can sustain a performance, no matter what 
kind of house we have full or small. In 'Invitation to a March," a 
play I did in 1960, I'd get a hand just for the cross going from one 
side of the stage to the other in tight purple slacks. Audiences vary. 
Timing comes from them, not from you. Any time you press or reach 
for an audience, you lose it. 

Every role I've ever played has been somewhat outside me and my 
life with my husband and little boys. If feeling is real, it's no longer 
acting. I was strongly affected in myself by only one part the mother 
of a child who is murdered, in the Broadway production of "The Bad 
Seed." I was happy to leave that play; it made me feel sick. There are 
only a few moments here and there in my acting when I am close to 
my own personality. But there is a reality I try to establish in my 
relationships with the other actors in a play. In "Invitation to a 
March," I was confused during the rehearsals and didn't hear half 
of what was being said on the stage. I had a talk with the young man 
who played my son, and we tried to find some way of making our 
relationship more real, in order to strengthen the performance. Every 
actor tries to do this. The best Broadway work I've done was as 
Lottie Lacey in "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs." But the part 
was beautifully written, and allowed for a full characterization. That 
helped. And Elia Kazan, the director, had four ideas for me for every 
one I had. I usually cross out the author's stage directions. Authors 
should write the words and leave the rest to us. However, three 
years ago, I went out to California to do "Mother Courage" for John 
Houseman's Theatre Group, at U.C.L.A., because I wanted to do 
Brecht. The material is so big and specific. The part of Mother 
Courage should be played by a European. I'm too American. But I 
had a rapport with that woman and with her strength. I had a lot to 
give to that role, and I've never worked harder. Brecht says to cut 
off all emotion in a performance, and to Method actors that's 
news. We're always trying to turn on emotion and to deal with it on- 
stage. When Brecht confronts Mother Courage with her dead son, he 
tells you to drain yourself of all feeling and expression. I worked on 
that scene through three bad performances, but for the last four per- 
formances the scene, the whole play worked. To play Mother Courage 
emotionlessly and to feel those audiences responding in a way I'd 
never before experienced was unforgettable. Those four performances 
were the most gratifying of my life. 



When I get a new script, I begin by spending days reading and re- 
reading it and thinking about it. I have no idea, at first, how to play 
the part. Some actors begin with nothing and gradually build a role. 
I would rather make a decision after a fifth reading and have it be bad 
than remain uncertain. I make notations in the script of how I am 
going to act as the director makes his suggestions to me during re- 
hearsals. I write it all down. Then I have a mental picture of what 
I'm going to do. But I can't set it until we start the out-of-town try- 
outs. My greatest satisfaction in acting is that I am able to give of 
myself. It's difficult, but I like it. And because I like it, it becomes an 
indulgence. The money is attractive, too. It wasn't at first, but now I 
don't turn up my nose at money. Also, it takes years of involvement 
to learn just a little bit about acting, and I'm happy about having 
learned something. These days, a lot of actors go in for psychoanalysis, 
because they think it will make them understand their own feelings 
better and thus help them become better actors. Actors work on emo- 
tion all the time. But actors who think psychoanalysis will make them 
better actors are misguided. They ought to take a look at Garbo. She 
gives of herself and makes believe simultaneously, compelling the 
audience to forget the dishes in the sink. An actress is out in the 
world. The very aliveness of acting makes it attractive to me. I'll never 



So many people in the theatre don't like us to get 
down to the bones of a thing. It's been such a fight 
for the freedom to do it. 

I was born on August 9, 1927, in Westhoughton, Lancashire, in the 
North of England the heart of the cotton-mill country. My father, 
Dr. Thomas Shaw, a general practitioner, killed himself during the 
Second World War, when I was twelve. My mother is a remarkable 
woman, extraordinarily independent. She was born in Piggs ]Peak, in 
Swaziland, South Africa, and she met my father while she was a nurse 
at the Truro Hospital, in Cornwall. She returned to Swaziland in 
1953, and now teaches reading and writing to white children in a small 
country school there. I'm the eldest of five children. Elizabeth, two 
years younger than I am, is married to an English professor at Franklin 
and Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and has four chil- 
dren; Joanna, four years younger than I am, also lives in Lancaster, 
and is married to a man who raises money for the college; Alexander, 
born in 1932, lives in London, studying pathology, and is married and 
has two children; and Wendy, the youngest, born in 1938, is married to 



a Dutchman, a purser on the Queen Mary, and they have two children. 
I have four daughters by my marriage, in 1952, to the actress 
Jennifer Burke. My brother and one of my sisters went to Cambridge, 
and another sister went to Oxford. After the war, my mother said 
to us, "All you children are so clever that I'm going to do some- 
thing, too," and she went off to one of those training centers for people 
back from the war, and became qualified to teach. My father was un- 
usually talented in many ways. In his younger days, he was a famous 
Rugby football player and played Rugby football in the trials for 
England, and also was an amateur boxing champion. He was decorated 
in the First World War. I am a novelist as well as an actor, and I wrote 
a bit about this episode in my second novel, "The Sun Doctor." (My 
first novel was "The Hiding Place.") The day my father killed himself, 
he told my mother, "I'm going to kill myself." My mother said, "Don't 
do it in front of the children." My mother says to this day that he 
didn't mean to kill himself that he had two bottles labelled "Scotch," 
one containing poison, and took a drink from the wrong bottle. I was 
in boarding school at the time the Truro School, in Cornwall, about 
a hundred miles from where we then lived, in Keinton Mandeville, in 
Somerset. The headmaster told me that my father had killed himself, 
and that he was driving up there and I could come or stay in school. 
I said I'd stay in school. My father's drinking had been an enormous 
strain on the family. In the English middle-class milieu we were 
ostensibly a part of, his drinking was something to be ashamed of. 
I've spoken with old aunts who were too ashamed to know anything 
about it. It must have had its effect on me. Even now, I often dream 
that my father is still alive. 

When I was six, my father moved us to Stromness, a small town in 
the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland. It was a wonderful place for 
children. It was a tough, simple life. My father was terribly well liked. 
He was a courageous man, and would go off by boat to visit his 
patients, even in the stormiest weather. He is still spoken of with great 
affection in the islands. When I was ten, my mother packed up and 
took us to Cornwall, where she had lived as a girl. My father moved to 
Somerset, where he bought the house that Henry Irving was born in. 
After a while, we joined him in that house, where he was to die. I 
started going to boarding school when I was eleven, and continued 
there until I was eighteen. I loved school. I was good at Rugby and I 



was good at running. In fact, I was a very good all-around athlete, and 
that always makes things easy for you in an English public school. I 
was good in classes, too, but I was terribly lazy. I'd work in spurts. I 
was made head prefect when 1 was sixteen, and for eighteen months 
of bliss I had a study of my own, with a wireless. I did a lot of acting 
in school. I had a great competitive instinct; I was always going on the 
stage to prove that I was the best actor. I was competitive in general. 
I never resented it if anybody else was praised. I just wanted what was 
due me. The most dead-giveaway story about me has to do with some- 
thing that happened when I was thirteen. We were having Under- 
Fourteen Sports Day at school I said to the other boys beforehand, 
"I'm going to win the hundred-yard dash/' Another boy said that I'd 
be second, and that a boy named Thomas was going to win. We came 
to Sports Day, and I won the dash easily and Thomas was second. I 
said to the boys, "I told you I was going to win it." They seemed to 
begrudge me the victory. That made me feel resentful. All I wanted 
was my due. From the beginning, I felt that way strongly about act- 
ing. When I was twelve, I won the dramatic prize at school for playing 
Richard the Lion-Hearted in a one-act play. Everybody said I was the 
only one who could be heard. My name was put on a scroll, and there 
was a lot of applause. For me, at school, and for a long time after 
that, acting was a matter of showing off. But it wasn't all that simple, 
because I always disliked people who didn't do it well. These days, 
I quite often have a great sense of pleasure when I can feel that I am 
actually communicating something onstage. Truro was a very theatri- 
cal school. Every dormitory did a one-act play each term. In school 
plays, when I was fourteen I played Lady Macbeth, and at fifteen I 
played Mark Antony in "Julius Caesar." I was the leading lady in 
these dramatic-society plays for two years; once, I had to play the part 
of the blond Russian vamp in "Idiot's Delight." 

I had one schoolmaster who got me to read all sorts- of things 
pretty well everything, including all the classic novels. He was just 
one of those bits of luck one has in one's life. His name is Cyril 
Wilkes, and I still see him from time to time. He must have been 
lonely, and that was his life teaching boys and helping them. He 
used to take three or four of us to see plays in London. The first real 
play I ever saw, in the autumn of 1944, was "Hamlet," with John 
Gielgud, in a repertory production put on at the Haymarket. 



Mr. Wilkes took some of us to London during a school holiday. 
We saw Gielgud's "Hamlet" at a matinee. That evening, we saw 
Margaret Leighton and Ralph Richardson in "Peer Gynt," and the 
next day we saw Laurence Olivier in "Richard III" at a matinee, 
and Alastair Sim in the James Bridie play "It Depends What 
You Mean" that evening. The third day, we saw Laurence Olivier 
in the film "Henry V" in the morning, and in the evening we 
saw John Gielgud again, in "Love for Love." I was quite dazzled. 
Gielgud made an extraordinary impression on me. I can see him 
now as he looked in "Hamlet" that long, angular body in the black 
costume. That first night, I went back to the hotel room, picked up 
"Hamlet," and read it from beginning to end. Mr. Wilkes taught 
French and directed all the school plays. He always had time to talk 
to the boys. We used to sit in his room until two or three in the morn- 
ing talking about books and politics. Mr. Wilkes was one of those 
English liberals of the thirties a member of the Left Book Club, who 
had probably thought about going to fight Fascism in Spain but then 
hadn't done it. He was that kind of teacher. He directed me in the 
school plays, but he told me not to try to become a professional actor. 
He said that I had the wrong temperament for it that I was too rebel- 
lious and wanted my own way too much. Later on, I found out that it 
was his policy to say that to everybody, on the theory that if you're set 
on doing a thing, you'll go ahead and do it anyway. 

Somehow I got through all my exams, and in 1945 I received a 
scholarship to Cambridge. To fill in the time between Christmas, when 
I left school, and the start of the university year, in October, I took a 
job teaching at Glenhow, a prep school, in Saltburn, Yorkshire. I was 
particularly good at teaching cricket and Rugby, but I taught regular 
subjects besides English, French, arithmetic. I still had to take a 
special Latin exam in order to qualify for Cambridge. Suddenly, the 
prospect of sitting down to study Latin appalled me. Also, I was rather 
broke then, and if you wanted to get a bigger grant at Cambridge, you 
had to agree to stay on and teach for a year at Cambridge, and I didn't 
want to do that. It seemed to me a good idea to go on to an acting 
school, so I wrote to the principal of the Royal Academy of Dramatic 
Art and asked for an audition. When I read for him, he told me that I 
wasn't talented enough for a scholarship but that I was good enough 
to get in. I thought I was really good. I knew I could hold an audi- 



ence. For me, acting was a pleasurable thing the most pleasurable 
thing I knew except scoring in a football match. It was much the same 
kind of thing not quite the same, though. It gave me the same feel- 
ing I used to get walking back up the field after scoring a try, with 
everybody clapping. What always disturbed me about acting was that 
you could never prove exactly what you had done, while if you scored 
a try, there was no doubt about it. I went to the R.A.D.A. for two 
years from 1946 to 1948. I didn't do at all well my first year. The 
teaching was appalling, but one gradually learned from the older 
actors there; they were wonderful. I couldn't have found a better 
toughening-up school. If you weren't liked, you only got two-line 
parts in the students' plays. Toward the end of my last year there, I 
won a competition for the best actor of the afternoon by playing Lord 
Byron in "Bitter Harvest" before an audience of agents and managers, 
and from then on I got good parts in a lot of plays. In those days, I 
was completely without nerves. I never worried about acting. 

In 1948, I was asked to go to Stratford, and I went. I stayed for two 
seasons, at seven pounds a week the first season and nine the next. I 
had great energy then, and great attack. I was never one of those 
actors who don't understand the text. Something that used to annoy 
me at Stratford was the way actors didn't understand what they were 
saying. They used to tell me, "I just say the lines." I had great intel- 
lectual arrogance. I had no humility then at all. For one thing, I used 
to try to prove how masculine I was. I would stand in certain ways 
and attack things very vigorously. In my early years of acting, there 
was often no relation between what the author had written and what I 
did. When you're young, you can get away with things like that. You're 
attractive, and you don't know you're doing it, and you go along on 
enthusiasm. I was far too outspoken in those days. I had no social 
graces. If I didn't think I was in a good position onstage, I would say 
so. In my first season at Stratford, I was playing a tiny, tiny part 
the Duke of Burgundy in "King Lear." I was supposed to stand in a 
tiny corner. John Gielgud was directing, and playing Lear, and I said 
to him, in front of fifty or sixty people, "I can't possibly give any idea 
of the majesty of the Duke of Burgundy with my back to the audi- 
ence/' He was so astonished! At the end of the season, he sent for me 
and said, "I do admire you and think you've got a lot of ability, and 
I'd like to help you, but you make me so nervous." I suppose we were 



poles apart in temperament. While I was at Stratford, I went to Lon- 
don to see "The Lady's Not for Burning" when Gielgud was playing 
in it and was also directing at Stratford. After the play, we drove back 
to Stratford together. On the way, I told him that I didn't like the 
play that I had liked his performance very much but not the play. I 
said, "That's no way to write plays, and besides a lot of the writing is 
imitative," and I quoted lines from W. H. Auden, among others, to 
prove it. I knew quite a bit about poetry, and used to write poetry 
myself in those days. I was able to substantiate everything I said. I 
really hated that play, and told him so. It was pretentious, I said. The 
images were never illuminating. There was no discipline in the writ- 
ing. There was no economy in the writing. The characters were one- 
dimensional. It was all sort of a word game. But the play had dazzling 
costumes, so the public loved it. I think Gielgud was impressed, but 
wary of me. 

I was so anxious to prove that I was the most talented young actor 
in the company. I thought I was terribly well read. Most of the others 
at Stratford didn't seem to know anything except theatre. They 
seemed to me to be so effete, so physically run down. I was quite in- 
tolerant of them. I used to be terribly critical of the tendency of so 
many of the actors to be forever listening to their own voices all of 
them, including Gielgud, Diana Wynyard, Peggy Ashcroft. I'd get 
terribly angry about the way the middle ranks were chosen for their 
usefulness to the star. It was all so stratified. Very often not the best 
actor but the most amenable actor would get the job. We had a phrase 
for that kind of actor; he was a "good company man/' Of course, it's 
now very understandable to me that the director just didn't have the 
time to bother about the actor playing a messenger or some such tiny 
part. But in those days I said some pretty silly things. Besides that, I 
was thoroughly irresponsible onstage. Once, when Alex Davion was 
playing a courtier and I was playing a gnome in "A Midsummer 
Night's Dream," at Stratford, I tied the wings of one of the other 
gnomes to a tree. It was an outrageous thing to do, of course. After- 
ward, the actor playing the other gnome said it was a very unprofes- 
sional thing to do. He was a mild man, and smaller than I was, and I 
admitted that he was right. I always admit a thing like that when it's 
pointed out. Nothing frightens me more than a mild man who is right- 
eously indignant. I don't mind it so much if I think he's wrong, but I 



mind it a lot when I know he's right. We were so bored, though. We 
thought we should be playing leads. Furthermore, there was an awful 
lot of dishonest, ritualistic acting that made me want to do rebellious 
things. In Shakespeare, they'd assume personalities, put on voices, and 
never grasp the reality of the part at all. In acting Shakespeare, the first 
requirement is to be real, to present a human being. Of course, you 
have to have a sense of rhythm you have to know how to phrase. But 
the English are so concerned with externals. They're so proud of being 
able to wear costumes well. I was warned three times at Stratford that 
I'd be sacked. Edmund Purdom was sacked. He and I used to sit in the 
wings playing chess until it was our turn to go on and open doors, or 
something. We were full of frustrations. We took ourselves seriously 
as actors, but we felt that the power was in the wrong hands. One of 
the older actors we admired and liked very much was Godfrey Tearle, 
who died in 1953. He used to understand us. He thought we were 
funny. We could make him laugh at us, and somehow that always 
seemed to ease the situation. 

At Stratford, one night in 1950, Alec Guinness saw me as Conrade, 
one of the villains in "Much Ado About Nothing," and he came 
around and said, ''My name is Alec Guinness. I would like to compli- 
ment you on your performance." He then asked me to join the cast of 
his own West End production of "Hamlet," produced in May, 1951. 
For my London debut, I played Rosencrantz, at twenty pounds a week. 
It was my first play in the West End. The play was a famous, disastrous 
flop, but I liked working with Guinness. He and Godfrey Tearle were 
the first star actors I felt at ease with. They treated me as an equal. I'm 
not somebody who is popular, but I've always been able to have four 
or five people around me whom I can trust. I like to be with people 
who will tell me the truth as they see it. Now that I know I can be a 
writer, I don't care as much about success in the theatre, but I do care 
about maintaining my position. Though I have always been very 
competitive as an actor, I've never been able to fight a selfish actor or 
a calculating actor. Now I've simply resolved that I will never again 
work with anyone I don't like. I've come to understand why John 
Gielgud surrounds himself with people who are sympathetic to his 

In my first five years as a professional actor, I didn't utter a line that 
wasn't Shakespeare. I learned pretty fast in those days. One learns taste 


as one goes along. At first, I forced the charm somewhat. Most actors 
tend to play for sympathy from the audience, and I think I did it all 
the time, I was selling myself to the audience not so baldly as some 
other people but doing it all the same. In some plays, of course, you've 
got to sell yourself, because it's up to you to improve on the text. But 
gradually, over the years, I learned, just by doing it, how to play parts 
as people would behave, instead of jazzing them up. In the long run, 
the audience likes it better that way. I always understood it in my 
mind, but in the early days I couldn't put it into practice. Eventually, 
I began to be able to weld everything together. For example, in Harold 
Pinter's "The Caretaker" I played a young man who has had a tragic 
experience in a mental hospital and, at one point in the play tells 
what happened in the hospital. I could play that scene for sympathy 
and get the whole house with me on a certain level, and it took a lot of 
honesty to do it the way I should, and often did, do it, which was to tell 
about it as simply as possible. I so respect Pinter. I always had an 
image of him sitting out in front. I knew how he wanted it played; 
theatrical effect was not what Pinter wanted. "The Caretaker" was the 
most wearing play I've ever been in, because I wasn't anything like the 
character I played. If I dropped my concentration for a second, the 
play would fall on the floor. I had to listen so intently, and I had to 
restrain myself so not to play for sympathy, that by the end of the per- 
formance I would be exhausted. 

One advantage that English actors have over Americans is that they 
have the opportunity to act much more. Everything I've learned I've 
learned by doing. From what I've been able to see of American actors, 
I'd say they are much less secure than British actors. I'm sure part of 
the reason is economic. There's simply more work to be done in 
England. There you can do the equivalent of an Off Broadway play 
and do television at the same time, but here the actor is split right 
down the middle. If he's lucky enough to have a job acting in New 
York, he is faced with the choice of staying where he is or going to 
the Coast to do rubbish television. And actors are treated with more 
respect in England. Here they seem to be bullied by everybody else. 
The stagehands are paid more money than they are in England, and 
they tend to push actors around. American actors seem afraid of their 
directors afraid they'll be sacked if they argue with directors. If 
you're frightened of arguing with your director, you're in a bad way. 



In England, producers are prepared to run to half-filled houses and 
give a play time to build up an audience, but here it seems that costs 
make that sort of attitude impossible. George Devine, who runs our 
Royal Court Theatre, the equivalent of a leading Off Broadway the- 
atre, has said, "We are not here to make money," and he's been 
criticized for saying it, but I do think that his idea is sound. 

After doing "Hamlet" with Guinness, I joined the Old Vic, at the 
invitation of Tyrone Guthrie, who had directed me as the Duke of 
Suffolk in "Henry VIII" at Stratford. I played Cassio in "Othello" 
and Lysander in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and toured Europe 
and South Africa with the company. I got married in Rhodesia; 
my wife was playing a fairy in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," 
a serving maid in "Othello," and a witch in "Macbeth." In those days, 
I was sold on Shakespeare. I thought Shakespeare was going to be my 
theatrical life, and the following year I returned to Stratford. The best 
part I played that season was Edmund in "King Lear." The rest was 
frustration, shared with me by Donald Pleasence; we dressed together. 
At the end of the season, I wasn't asked back. The next three years 
were a bad period. I was really poor. I got bits and pieces to do. I 
made my first film, "The Dam Busters," in which I was on the screen 
quite a lot but had about eight lines. In June, 1955, I played in the 
London production of "Tiger at the Gates" the part of Topman, 
who comes on in the beginning and reports on what Helen is doing 
in Troy and says "I can tell the sex of a seagull thirty yards off," 
which is a good line to have in any play. It wasn't a success in London, 
where we played for eight and a half weeks after taking it on 
tour for eight and a half weeks. I wrote two plays dUring "Tiger 
at the Gates." I'd written rny first play while I was in Guinness' 
"Hamlet" a verse play about an actor and his girl friend. During 
those three bad years, I used to borrow money to live on. I never 
minded borrowing it, somehow, and people never minded lending it to 
me; we all knew it would be repaid. I made a few more films, and in 
one, "Hill in Korea," I had quite a nice part, that of a simple country 
boy. I've never been in a good movie, though. My parts in films have 
never been remotely as good as my parts on the stage. I also did quite a 
bit of television work. But I was usually desperate for work. Lying in 
bed one day, I went as far as to look through the ads for jobs, and I 
applied for one at the H. J. Heinz factory in London putting beans 



in cans. I didn't get the job. They said I was too well educated. They 
probably thought I'd make trouble. I can remember praying for a job 
at one point, though I wasn't religious. 

In 1957, in London, I made a television series for C.B.S.-TV called 
"The Buccaneers," in which I played the part of the hero, Captain 
Dan Tempest. Up to then, I had never earned more than sixteen 
hundred pounds a year. For the series, I was offered ten thousand 
pounds for eight months' work. Naturally, I took it. After a while, I 
began to hate it. 1 enjoyed the swashbuckling. The captain was a sort 
of Errol Flynn character, and I'd always admired Flynn in the movies. 
But the scripts were so bad, and I couldn't go anywhere in England 
without being recognized. They didn't speak to Robert Shaw any 
more. They spoke to Captain Dan Tempest. It was slave work. I didn't 
write a word while I was doing the series. I'd get up at six to go to the 
studio, and I couldn't get home before eight at night. The conscien- 
tious actors in television work of this sort learn all their lines at night. 
I didn't bother to learn more than the first two lines and the last two 
lines; I paraphrased the rest. That was the only way to keep sane. It 
was a cheerful series, however. At least, I was gay in it, and laughed a 
lot. When in doubt about anything, I'd laugh. I was very good at the 
fencing, too. I bought my first car, a yellow-and-black 1933 Rolls- 
Royce. That's about all I bought with the money. I was uninterested 
in clothes. The week I started filming "The Buccaneers," I had one of 
my plays produced at the Arts Theatre. Called "Off the Mainland," it 
was one of the plays I'd written during "Tiger at the Gates," and was 
based on the Paolo and Francesca story. I played Lazslo Rimini, the 
lead, myself. It lasted six weeks. We played to half-empty houses. 
Until the play opened, I thought it was marvellous. One of my friends, 
Lindsay Anderson, told me that it was bad but that it had flashes of 
good writing. He said one has to know what one is trying to say, and 
I didn't. I was probably quite hurt by all this. I was making two 
hundred and fifty pounds a week filming "The Buccaneers," and I 
probably decided to take refuge in the commercial world. So I came 
to America to help promote "The Buccaneers," which not only was 
being made by an American network but had an American sponsor. 

I spent a week in New York, going to a press party at the Stork Club 
and appearing on a lot of television shows and being in the Macy's 
Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was all very glamorous and exciting. 



Then I went back to London. I was offered a lot of work on television, 
but it was rubbish work. I turned it down. I took my family and went 
to live in the country for a bit. Something a London manager had said 
that the first act of one of my plays was written like a novel stuck 
in my mind. So I started to write "The Hiding Place/' One day, Don- 
ald Pleasence came to visit me in the country. I asked him if he would 
lend me some money. He asked why, and I said because I was writing 
a novel. He lent me a hundred pounds. The novel was a success, selling 
twelve thousand copies in England and about the same in France and 
in the United States. I wrote a dramatization of it that was produced 
on commercial television in England. "Playhouse 90," in America, had 
a different dramatization of it on television. After the novel, I think I 
began to grow up a bit. It was a turning point for me. All the com- 
petitive thing went when the book became a success. 

But as an actor I had become a joke. It was ironic, because people 
all over England knew me and my name, but to the people in power in 
the theatre I was nothing. I did some thinking about the way I had 
behaved at Stratford, and thought, Whom do I like in the theatre? I 
liked George Devine and what he was doing at the Royal Court. It was 
the most interesting theatre in England. I had worked for him at 
Stratford and given him a bit of trouble. So I sat down and wrote a 
letter to Devine at the Royal Court, saying that I thought he was 
doing marvellous work, and that I was so sorry I had been so stupid. 
I had an answer in a week, offering me a part in "Live Like Pigs," by 
John Arden. That's when it all began. I got on marvellously with 
Devine and did two more plays with him. All of them were worth 
doing. I was doing what I could do. I was rehabilitated as an actor. I 
was in "The Long and the Short and the Tall," by Willis Hall, with 
Peter O'Toole. It was a hit, and moved to the West End. I played 
a sergeant in control of a patrol in Burma. It was the best part 
I had ever had. The acting was worth doing. In that play, I was 
the father figure, suddenly. Suddenly I was in a position of re- 
sponsibility in relation to three or four actors more irresponsible 
than I was. I was actually forced into a position of responsibility. My 
greatest personal success around that time was in the Jacobean play 
"The Changeling." I played an ugly servant in love with the mistress of 
the house played by Mary Ure who persuades him to murder her 
fiance. He does, and then claims her. They become obsessed with each 



other, and are discovered, and he kills her. The play was directed by 
Tony Richardson, and played a limited engagement two months 
to packed houses. 

I don't act for the audience now. I act for a few individuals. Pinter, 
for one. Pleasence, for another. And I act for myself. What I like now 
is just the work. I don't think I could do anything now that I didn't 
like. I wouldn't mind a sort of Errol Flynn part in an epic, treating it 
on that level, but I wouldn't be in anything dishonest. Most actors are 
very vulnerable. It's so easy for them to lose their integrity. You have 
to learn how to stand up to the pressure of success. All this kind of 
thing takes so long to assimilate. It was only when I was past thirty-four 
that I began to prefer the truth. 



My biggest problem as an actress is growing. I grow 
at the rate of one inch a year. 

I was born on December 14, 1946, in New York City. My parents, 
John and Frances Duke, were separated when I was about seven. My 
father is a cab driver. I don't see him. I have one sister, Carol, who is 
six years older than I am and works as a secretary for an insurance firm, 
and one brother, Raymond, four years older than I am, who became an 
actor before I became one. When Ray was eight, he joined the Madison 
Square Boys' Club. We were poor then, and lived in a tenement on 
East Thirty-first Street, and the club was in our neighborhood. He 
used to come home and tell us about the activities at the club the 
boxing matches and the plays and all the rest of the fun. It sounded 
very exciting. Then, when Ray played the lead in "The Ransom of 
Red Chief" at the club, someone there recommended him to Mr. and 
Mrs. John Ross, who specialize in finding children with talent and 
managing them. When I was about seven, the Rosses, who are ex- 
tremely kind and serious people, without children of their own, 
got Ray some jobs to do on television. He'd come home and tell 
about acting in commercials and how much fun it was to kid 



around with Paul Winchell and all the other people he worked with. 
Around Christmastime of 1954, he did a toy commercial that was 
really something, and then the Rosses got him some work to do in a 
television series called "Crunch and Dez." It was made in Bermuda, 
and he went all the way to Bermuda on a plane, and when he came 
back, he told us how wonderful the plane trip was, and how he had 
fished in Bermuda and gone swimming, and how beautiful the water 
was, and he told us about how he had driven a boat. It sounded like 
such fun to me. I had never seen a play myself. I didn't even know what 
acting was. I was going to the Sacred Heart School, near where we 
lived, and we never put on plays except for little Christmas things. 
After school, I would play in the street with the other kids. Every once 
in a while, my mother would take us to Coney Island, but I was bored 
by it. I was smaller than the other kids my age, and usually went 
around with kids younger than I was. That was boring, too. I knew 
television and the movies, but I didn't think of them as having any- 
thing to do with acting. Acting to me then was something different. 
Acting was going to faraway places, doing things you never did around 
our neighborhood, and having fun. I wanted to do acting, the way 
Ray did. Now that I am fifteen, I realize that everyone has a dream of 
doing something other than what he is doing, but not everyone can do 
it. I was sure I could. I wanted to become an actress right away. I didn't 
want to just dream of becoming an actress when I was grown up. So 
one day Ray took me along to a party at the Rosses', to meet them. I 
was just eight. The Rosses were very nice. They began to give me train- 
ing in diction. I love the Rosses. They've looked after me ever since. 
I now spend as much time at their house as I do at my own. 

After a while, the Rosses began taking me around to some offices 
for interviews. None of the people we saw seemed to believe that I 
wanted to be an actress. I knew they wanted someone prettier than I 
was someone with a round face and blond curly hair and dimples. 
We kept going around for interviews. After a few months, we got dis- 
couraged and stopped. But I knew that the Rosses would remember 
me if something came up, and they did. When the sinking of the 
Andrea Doria was dramatized for television, there was a part for a 
little Italian girl, and I got it. It was my first part. I was nine. I had 
been discouraged, but when I finally did start acting, it was just as 
much fun as I had thought it would be. I had to use an Italian accent 



as this little Italian girl. The Rosses helped me get the accent right. 
And they kept telling me, "When you are acting, always make a dis- 
tinction; one part of you is the character, another part is you, Patty 
Duke. Patty Duke knows what is coming, but the character does not 
know what is coming." My mother in the play had to throw me over- 
board, but I wasn't afraid. I acted as though I was very frightened, but 
I wasn't, because I knew I had a nice soft mattress to fall on. In order 
to seem frightened, I just thought of how I might have been frightened 
by a height like the fear of being pushed off a diving board or a 
snowbank. I always remember the part of me that is the character, as 
long as I'm onstage. Once, when I was playing the part of Helen 
Keller as a child in "The Miracle Worker," one of the lights fell to the 
stage and crashed. It was an accident. Everyone else in the cast and 
everyone in the audience was scared. Some people screamed. But I 
didn't. I remembered that I was playing a character who couldn't see 
or hear, and I kept it up, because we were onstage. I was holding an 
Irish setter, a real one,, and I squeezed it, but no one knew I did that. 
For about four years after my first television part, I did a lot of 
dramatic parts on television, and made other appearances. I was very 
good at doing British accents. When I was in the television play 
"Wuthering Heights," with Richard Burton and Rosemary Harris, in 
May, 1958, 1 played Cathy as a child. I was the only member of the cast 
who wasn't really British. I loved doing the British accent. Working 
with Richard Burton was great, and I loved the beautiful costumes. 
It was all such fun. In one scene, we had rain. I looked up and there 
was a big hose with holes in it, and all of a sudden there was rain. In 
about four years, I appeared in almost forty television shows, including 
"The Prince and the Pauper," "Swiss Family Robinson," "The Power 
and the Glory," and "Once Upon a Christmastime," and a number of 
times in two television series called "Kitty Foyle" and "Brighter Day." 
And I made appearances on a lot of shows where they kidded around 
and were kind, and it wasn't even like work Phil Silvers', Frankie 
Laine's, and Paul Winchell's shows. I had the most fun of all when I 
played Tootie in "Meet Me in St. Louis," with Ed Wynn, who played 
my grandfather. I had to sing and dance. I had never danced before, 
but Mrs. Ross, who used to be a professional dancer, taught me how 
to do a waltz clog, and I did it with Ed Wynn. In 1957, I was in a 
documentary movie, "The Deep Well," with my brother Ray. It was 



all about this boy who is a delinquent, and his sister. They come from 
a broken home. It told about this home for children in Pleasantville 
where children from broken homes go. The film was shown to social 
workers and people like that. Making it was very exciting, because it 
was filmed at this home in Pleasantville, and it was the first time I'd 
gone on location, and Pleasantville was the farthest I'd ever gone from 

In the summer of 1961, I worked in the film version of "The Mir- 
acle Worker." I'd been in a few movies the documentary with Ray, 
and "The Goddess," in which I played Kim Stanley as a child, and a 
couple of others so I knew a little bit about acting for the movies. 
Mr. Ross explained that a film and a play require two completely 
different techniques. He told me about closeups, and how when D. W. 
Griffith made the first closeup, showing only the face, enlarged, on the 
screen, the audiences started to scream, "What happened to everybody 
else?" Mr. Ross also explained how your movements, and so on, are 
much more confined in a movie. In a play, you have to make things 
broader, and you have to project more; you have to reach the 
last row in the balcony with your voice. And another thing he ex- 
plained was that while everything in a play is done in continuous 
sequence, in a movie you may shoot a one-minute indoor scene on the 
sound stage and then shoot the next minute of the film on location four 
weeks later. It's harder to do, but you learn to do it. Mr. Ross teaches 
me everything. He works with me until the first rehearsal of a movie 
or a play I'm doing, but he never interferes with the director. Working 
with Arthur Penn, who directed me in both the stage and the screen 
versions of "The Miracle Worker/' was a fabulous experience. He's so 
considerate and patient and kind and gentle, and really fun. 

Fifteen months before "The Miracle Worker" was produced on 
Broadway, Mr. Ross heard that it was going to be put on. He immedi- 
ately began to plan ahead for it. We knew we were going to get that 
part. We started to work on it a couple of days a week after school. I 
would go to his house, and he would read about Helen Keller to me. 
He bought every book about her childhood that he could get hold of, 
to find out what she was like. The Rosses both read a lot about her to 
me, and they told me a lot, too. I learned that Helen Keller loved food 
and loved to smell flowers. She liked to feel the sun on her skin and to 
lie in the grass. I'd think about things like that every morning while 



I was getting dressed to go to school. In the afternoon, after school, 
the Rosses would sometimes take me to the park, where I would lie on 
the grass and smell the flowers. After we'd done that a lot, we began 
working on the blind part. We started by having me keep my eyes 
closed. Then the Rosses heard that the director was going to want the 
girl to have her eyes open in the play, so we started practicing it that 
way. The Rosses made a game of it. I would sit on the couch in the 
Rosses' living room, looking straight ahead of me, and the Rosses 
would put something in my line of vision. If I looked at it, I lost. If I 
didn't, I won. Then we started on the deafness. I would sit on the 
couch pretending I couldn't hear, sometimes for two hours at a time. 
Mrs. Ross would come in and ask me if I wanted a Coke, or something, 
and if I answered, I lost. If I didn't show anything, I won. After we had 
decided to go out for the Helen Keller part, we turned down a part in 
"The Sound of Music," although I occasionally appeared on television 
in a play, like "One Red Rose for Christmas/' with Helen Hayes. Aside 
from that, all I did was go to school and then practice every day that I 
was blind, deaf, and dumb. We worked for almost a year before I had 
an audition for the part. At first, the producer and director thought I 
might not work out, because if I grew two inches I'd be too tall. But 
Mrs. Ross put two-inch heels on an old pair of shoes of mine and stood 
me next to Anne Bancroft with the heels, and they decided that even 
if I grew a little it would still be all right. I was at the Rosses' apart- 
ment when the agency representing me telephoned Mr. Ross and told 
him the part was mine. We were so happy, and we'd worked so hard 
for it, that now it was here, we cried. It was really great. I've been 
having fun ever since. 

When I'm in a play, I get up at eight-thirty every morning. I go to 
Quintano's School for Young Professionals, on West Fifty-sixth 
Street. I get the top marks in my class. I always get all A's in history 
and French, but I also like English, general science, and earth science. 
Languages are very easy for me. I like history best of all, though. I want 
to know why things happened the way they did. I'm planning to go 
to finishing school and maybe to college, but I'm not sure yet what 
I'm going to study. I am sure I want to stay in the theatre. I love it. 
My mother and my brother and I live in Elmhurst, Queens. When I'm 
working, I go to school from ten in the morning until one in the after- 
noon. Then, if I don't have a singing lesson, I go home or to the Rosses' 


place. I have two sets of school books. I keep one set at home and the 
other set at school. When I'm in a play, I may go home after school, if 
I want to go ice-skating or, something, with the children in my neigh- 
borhood, or I may go to the Rosses'. During "The Miracle Worker/' I 
went to the theatre by bus and by subway, and sometimes in a taxi, and 
then, at the end of the play, a taxi would usually pick me up and either 
take me home to Elmhurst or take me to the Rosses', depending on how 
I felt or on my schedule. The Rosses like me to get as much rest as pos- 
sible, so I try to get to bed by midnight. My mother or one of the 
Rosses is always with me at the theatre. I found it a lot of fun to act in 
"The Miracle Worker," even though I didn't get to wear pretty clothes 
or have my hair curled. Opening night was especially exciting. Every- 
one was so friendly. What I like about being in a play is pleasing the 
audience and making them laugh or feel things. Every night there's a 
new audience. If they applauded the big fight scene in "The Miracle 
Worker" and if the jokes got big laughs, we'd all know we were going 
great. If the applause or laughs didn't come well, we'd just go to 
work right away and keep working until the applause and laughs came 
back. The play ran from October, 1959, to July, 1961, and except 
for the last five weeks, when I left to begin work on the movie version 
of the play, I didn't miss a single performance. After we'd been playing 
for several months, sometimes someone in the cast would say, around 
eight-thirty, "Well, here we go again" and give a great big sigh. 
But I never felt that way. Every night was a new night for me. 

Best of all, better than being in a play, I love going places with Mr. 
and Mrs. Ross. Once, they took me on a two-week vacation to Florida. 
We flew in a plane, and chartered a boat there. It was just as much fun 
as I'd thought it would be. The Rosses have taken me to Atlantic City, 
too to the Barclay Motel, which has a swimming pool, with a plastic 
dome, where you can swim the year around. In New York, sometimes, 
we pack some steaks and have a picnic under the George Washington 
Bridge, or we go to Palisades Park and have a cookout there. That's 
my idea of fun. 



Acting is the most delicious experience in life. When 
I'm supposed to be feeling despair on the stage, what 
I really feel is that I'm sitting on top of the world. 

I was born on December 7, 1915, in Brooklyn, in the Red Hook section 
known as Little Italy. My parents had a candy store named Bertha's. 
Bertha was my mother, who died in 1955. I had just come back from 
England, where I had played Sakini in "The Teahouse of the August 
Moon" for almost a year. My father is now eighty-six, and lives in 
Brooklyn with my brother. I was the third of four children. The three 
others became teachers. In Red Hook, we were the only Jews in a sea 
of Italians. I grew up feeling Italian as well as Jewish. I attended hun- 
dreds of Italian winemaking sessions, carrying boxes of grapes to 
winemaking cellars and getting bunches of grapes as a reward. Every 
summer from the age of eight to the age of fourteen, I spent two weeks 
in a summer camp in Raritan, New Jersey, run as a charity by the old 
Life magazine. I made my debut as an actor in that camp. When I was 
fifteen, my parents sold the candy store and, around the same time, 
bought a three-family house on Bedford Avenue, in Flatbush; we lived 
on the first floor and were supported by the rent paid by the families 



we had as tenants on the two other floors. I went to Erasmus Hall High 
School, where I was an indifferent student, and unhappy. I never went 
to dances. I was a miserable adolescent. Across from Erasmus, how- 
ever, was a Boys' Club, where I played ping-pong and swam. And that's 
where I really found out about acting. I starred in a play called "Fiat 
Lux/' playing a sixty-five-year-old man who was bitter because he had 
lost his children and his belief in God. When one of the kids in the 
audience yelled out "That's Eli!" I wanted to jump off the stage and 
pot him. I still get sore if I think people don't believe what I want 
them to believe. It's very important to me that they believe. It gives me 
an added sense of power, or something. From the time I was a kid, I've 
never been afraid to make believe. But during my first performance in 
a role I'm terrified. After the first plunge into the water, I seldom have 
stage fright. 

I graduated from high school in 1932 one of the worst years of the 
depression. I then went to the University of Texas, where the tuition 
was thirty dollars a year, which was all I could afford, and majored in 
history. My family and everybody else I knew told me I should become 
a teacher, and I agreed with them. I stuck it out in Texas for four 
years, working at odd jobs and National Youth Administration jobs to 
pay for my board and room. The university had no Drama Depart- 
ment, but it did have the Curtain Club, which I joined. I swept the 
stage, painted scenery, and, in 1936, my senior year, played the lead in 
"Liliom" for one week. At the end of the week, I began to think it 
might be possible to earn a living as an actor. Zachary Scott was the 
leading star of the club. He wore a dressing gown with style with a 
scarf around his neck and he looked at home in a tuxedo. I had a 
kind of built-in hostility toward a tuxedo, and I didn't own one until 
two years ago, when I was given one. I don't look bad in it, but I 
don't feel like Zachary Scott. 

I graduated from Texas with an A.B., but to teach in New York I 
needed a Master's degree, and I got it at City College in 1938. While 
I was studying education, and also Chinese painting, I worked with a 
little-theatre group, was a playground director in some tough neighbor- 
hoods in Brooklyn, did radio plays for WLID in Brooklyn, and read 
Theatre Arts Monthly. After a while, I began to study acting in New 
York. I was a little guy, and I knew the odds were against me, but I was 
determined anyway. My family thought I was misguided, but I told 



them all, "This is what I am going to do/' Acting was an avocation in 
the eyes of everybody but me. My parents' resistance in a way was 
lovely and wonderful. I guess part of everybody's drive is based on his 
parents' disapproval and on wanting to show them they were wrong. 
But in 1938, to please my parents, I went through the motions of tak- 
ing an exam required by the Board of Education for a city teaching 
job. I was one of nineteen hundred and sixty out of two thousand who 
took the test who failed. So I felt free to do what I wanted to do. My 
sister Shirley was going out with a guy whose brother knew Sanford 
Meisner, of the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, so I 
went there regularly, on a scholarship. I thought I was terrific. I felt I 
had great emotions, and believed I could pretend to be anybody. Also, 
I always felt I moved well onstage what the books called "the graceful 
cross." I could bow with great flair. At the school, I learned a kind of 
rudimentary technique, and because Meisner was one of the first to 
bring Stanislavski's teachings to the United States, I got my first insight 
into these, as an antidote to the commercial cliche theatre. In the old- 
fashioned Delsarte system, actors acted by conventional signals to the 
audience. By Stanislavski's method, the actor is free to accept a stimulus 
while he's onstage and to react naturally to it. I loved that. After the 
first year, the Neighborhood Playhouse dropped students if they 
weren't satisfactory or promising. They thought I was good. They not 
only renewed my scholarship for a second year but lent me money 
about eight dollars a week for eight months so that I could keep go- 
ing with food and cigarettes. Today, I'm on the school's board of 

The summer of 1939, I worked as a playground director again, but 
through James Parke, director of the Curtain Club, I got a part for a 
week in Locust Valley, Long Island, playing at night in "The Bo 
Tree," with an exciting bunch of actors that included Richard Wid- 
mark and Vincent J. Donehue. The play was about college boys, and 
my part was that of a young radical who goes to fight in the Spanish 
Civil War. It was a rounded part, with humor and a lot for me to do, 
and I loved it. I was ego incarnate. I thought I was a much better actor 
then than I think of myself as being now. These days, I know too much 
about the awesome amount of work that must go into making a part 
your own. But at least, at that time, I had the playground work to go 
back to during the day, and that was a great leveller. 



I drew a low number in the draft, and I went into the Army in Jan- 
uary, 1941, before Pearl Harbor. I was in the Army for over four years, 
as a Medical Corps administrator. I served both in the Pacific and in 
Europe, and was discharged as a captain. The only theatrical work I 
did was to organize a couple of soldier revues for hospital patients and 
staffs. In 1945, I started looking for jobs as an actor. One of my first 
roles was in an Equity Library Theatre production of Tennessee 
Williams' one-act play "This Property Is Condemned/' Here I was, 
thirty years old, with ribbons and stuff, and I was playing the part of a 
boy of fifteen. I liked it. It made me feel good. The girl in the play was 
Anne Jackson, whom I married in 1948. She's always delighted me. We 
now have three children and live on Riverside Drive. I have tre- 
mendous respect and admiration for her as an actress, and more and 
more we're getting to appear together in plays. We were in "Major 
Barbara" together in 1957, and recently played together in "Rhinoc- 
eros" for six months. We have a tremendous working compatibility 
when we're in the same play, and especially when the play means some- 
thing important to us, as "Rhinoceros" did. On November 13, 1945, I 
made my first Broadway stage appearance as the crew chief in a play 
called "Skydrift," about a plane crash from which the ghosts of the men 
killed go home. I couldn't raise my voice above the roar of the sound- 
effect plane engines, but I survived in the play as long as it did on 
Broadway seven performances. In 1946, 1 joined the American Reper- 
tory Theatre, and I had a chance to play Cromwell in "Henry VIII;" 
Spintho, the coward, in "Androcles and the Lion;" minor roles in "Yel- 
low Jack" and "What Every Woman Knows;" and the Duck in "Alice 
in Wonderland," a part that had been played by an actor wearing 
skates on his knees. I played it in a continuous deep knee bend but 
without skates. I also played the Two of Spades and one of the other 
voices. Annie, my wife, was developing in her acting career, but I kept 
getting more and more discouraged. It wasn't money I cared about. We 
were getting along fine on unemployment insurance, living in a one- 
room, thirty-five-dollar-a-month apartment on lower Fifth Avenue in 
the Village. But I was always too young or too old or too small never 
right for a part. I drove poor Annie nuts with my griping and grousing. 
At one point, I thought Yd go into medical administration my old 
line of work. But in my heart I always knew that if I couldn't act I'd 
go mad. 



I spent a few summers in summer stock, and a lot of weeks in insur- 
ance lines, G.I. as well as unemployment. In 1949, I got a part in 
"Mister Roberts," which I played for two years, and then, in February, 
1951, I played the Sicilian lover in Tennessee Williams' "The Rose 
Tattoo/' opposite Maureen Stapleton. I received an Antoinette Perry 
award for a distinguished feature performance. After a year and a 
half in "The Rose Tattoo," I went directly into another Williams 
play, "Camino Real," directed by Elia Kazan. The producers didn't 
have all the money that was needed to begin rehearsals, and while 
I was waiting I was offered the movie role of Angelo Maggio in 
"From Here to Eternity" the part Frank Sinatra played that launched 
him on his career as an actor. I felt I should do the play with Kazan, 
and so I asked the movie producers for the ridiculously high salary 
of three thousand dollars a week to do Maggio. Sinatra thought 
I was insane not to try to get the part. Whenever he sees me now, 
he says to me, "You crazy actor!" But I've never been sorry. What 
do I need a movie for? The stage is on a higher level in every way, 
and a more satisfying medium. Movies, by comparison, are like 
calendar art next to great paintings. You can't really do very much 
in movies or in television, but the stage is such an anarchistic 
medium that the mavericks still can come in and do something. 
I made a gangster film recently "The Lineup" working five weeks 
at ten thousand dollars a week. After that, I felt so guilty about 
having been paid all that money, and had such a need to do penance, 
that I went to London and, at a tiny salary, played Elmer Rice's 
"Counsellor-at-Law" on the B.B.C. live with no commercial to 
break it up, and from there I flew to Rome and gave a lecture to actor- 
students on acting. I came back to New York, but I still felt guilty, so I 
did "The Chairs," by lonesco, at the Phoenix Theatre, for twenty-two 
performances, at eighty-five dollars a week. By that time, I had ex- 
punged my guilt, so I went on TV and played a gangster again. 

In 1947, when Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford, and Bobby Lewis 
started the Actors' Studio, I was one of the twenty who were the nu- 
cleus of the senior group. Others were my wife, David Wayne, Marlon 
Brando, Patricia Neal, Mildred Dunnock, Tom Ewell, Kevin Mc- 
Carthy, Maureen Stapleton, Sidney Lumet, John Forsythe, and Wil- 
liam Redfield. I believed, and still believe, it's an antidote to clich 
acting. Some people say that the Studio has formalized a style of its 



own. That is possible. Maybe someday there will be a new movement 
as an antidote to the Studio. In the meantime, I believe in the Method. 
Laurence Olivier once said to me, 'Isn't it greater artistry when you 
can communicate emotion but you don't feel a thing?" It's an old ar- 
gument. A lot of English actors say, "Never mind about all the talking, 
just get on the stage and do it." We say, "Do what?" Acting is the most 
alive thing I can do, and the most joyous. The old-fashioned actor de- 
velops a facility that is predictable. When he wants to show anger, hell 
clench his fists, and so on. We say, "Believe what you act." Naturally, 
you don't really believe, but it does give you a sense of something, and 
that gives your part life. As the curtain goes up, you're there, and 
you're willing to let something happen to you. The tendency at first is 
to absorb so much technique that you abuse it. Only as you mature as 
an artist do you leave out all the curlicues. You -become less ornate and 
more perceptive. The zenith of the acting craft is when you can leave 
yourself alone. Each part you play has what can be called a spine a 
line. You build a person's wants and needs around the movement of 
that line. Anna Magnani once told me, "When I do a character, if it's 
not right a shadow comes over rne, because I act from the heart." That's 
her method, her own means of arriving at a character. She has a tech- 
nique of her own. She's incapable of understanding any other method. 
What an actor learns, eventually, is that everyone has to find his own 
method and has to do what is right for himself. That's all that really 
matters in the end. The trouble today is that a lot of young people in 
acting go around saying that they're Method actors, and they don't un- 
derstand that they are merely technicians, doing what they think is 
Method. They're losing all the joys of acting. And they're the ones 
some of our finest actors latch on to as examples of Method actors, 
saying that these youngsters should stop making such a to-do about 
creating and just create. Lee Strasberg would be the first to agree with 
such criticism. He's always told us that a technique is there only to help 
you, and if it hinders you, don't use it. All good actors aspire to the 
same end. True simplicity in art is what we all strive for. You use any- 
thing you can to achieve that end. If the Method is part of what I can 
use, I'm for it. 

I've used at least a small part of my real self in every part I've ever 
played. Sometimes you use things inside yourself that you didn't even 
know were there. When I first read the part of the Sicilian lover in 



"The Rose Tattoo," and first read a television play I did about the 
gangster Albert Anastasia, I immediately knew certain things about 
these men with my feelings, because I was brought up with Italians like 
them, and I knew their temperament. One o the Anastasias, as a mat- 
ter of fact, lived across from the house I was born in, in Brooklyn. The 
guy became a killer for money. With him, it was a business. That 
means something special to me. Not that it's all crystal clear. Acting is 
always looking, always searching out the behavior of people. It's always 
wanting to know why people do things the way they do. But onstage 
you're always conscious of the audience. You know you're deluding 
them. Your own protection, and theirs, too, is the knowledge that it's 
make-believe, in a darkened theatre. 



I adore finding out about people's behavior , and after 
I find out I want to show it to somebody in acting. 

I was born on September 3, 1926, in Millvale, Pennsylvania, on the 
outskirts of Pittsburgh. My father, John Jchekovitch, was born in 
Croatia, came to America in 1918, at the age of seventeen, and settled 
in Pittsburgh. He changed his name to John Jackson. He played the 
violin, the mandolin, and the accordion, and sang Slavic folk songs, 
and he spoke Hungarian, Polish, and Russian as well as Croatian. 
After getting his high-school diploma, he worked as a barber and ran 
a beauty parlor. He died in 1956. My mother, born Stella Murray, was 
the daughter of a Pennsylvania coal miner and was one of twelve chil- 
dren; she died when I was seventeen. She was always frightened and 
inhibited, and she was one of those terribly partial-to-the-Irish Irish 
Catholics. My father was an agnostic. I'm the youngest of three sisters. 
My sister Catherine, eight years older than I am, is married to a tool- 
and-die maker, lives in Manhasset, Long Island, and has two children. 
My sister Beatrice, three years older than I am, is also married to a 
tool-and-die maker, and she lives in Valley Stream, and has three chil- 



dren. I was the shyest child who ever lived. I loathed my bright-red 
hair. When I was four, Catherine made me a costume of yellow-and- 
blue crepe paper, hung a blanket on our porch for a curtain, and 
put on a show for the kids in the neighborhood. I recited a corny 
poem she taught me, which she had cut out of the Ladies' Home 
Journal. Up to then, I'd never opened my mouth, and suddenly I got 
up there and recited and everybody yelled and clapped. It was wonder- 
ful. That's when I became an actress. When I was five, we moved to 
another little place near Pittsburgh, called Job, just outside the town 
of Tarentum, where my father had a barber shop. We lived in a 
little wooden house up in the hills that he'd bought for five hundred 
dollars. It had no heat and no plumbing. We got our heat from a 
pot-bellied stove, and we had to carry water from a well, but we were 
on the edge of a lovely forest and we had a garden, where my father 
raised beautiful flowers. I walked a mile to get to school. I was good 
in English, art, and history, and awful in arithmetic. I started going 
to movies when I was six, at the movie theatre in Tarentum. The 
first one I saw was "Letty Lynton," with Joan Crawford, Robert Mont- 
gomery, and Nils Asther. I couldn't get over the beautiful dress Joan 
Crawford was wearing all satin, with fur on the bottom. My sisters 
had taken me to the movie, and as soon as we got home, we played the 
whole thing for ourselves; Catherine was Joan Crawford, Beatrice 
was Nils Asther, and I was Robert Montgomery. From then on, we'd 
always act a movie out right after we saw it. It was such a gorgeous 
world. You spent all your time being loved and kissed. Nobody ever 
washed the dishes in those movies, and the people always died so 

During the depression, my father couldn't make a living in Taren- 
tum, and when I was eight he decided to move to New York. We lived 
for two months in an abandoned windmill on stilts in the marshes 
somewhere in Brooklyn, and then we moved to a tenement on Liberty 
Avenue, near a cemetery. I went to P.S. 214, then to P.S. 171, 
and finally to Franklin K. Lane High School. My sister Catherine 
joined every dramatic club she could find. Beatrice followed, and 
I got pushed into their footsteps. There was a movie house on 
Liberty Avenue that held an amateur-night contest every week. 
When I was ten, I wrote a skit with a girl friend who went to dancing 
school and was a genius at acrobatics, and we entered a contest. We 



pretended we were Dead End Kids, and after some patter my friend 
did flips and a tap dance, and I did imitations of Charles Laughton 
in "Mutiny on the Bounty," of Jeanette MacDonald in "San Fran- 
cisco/' and of Katharine Hepburn in "Morning Glory." We won first 
prize three dollars. That clinched it. There was no turning back. 
At eleven, I was doing imitations of Shirley Temple. At twelve, I had 
a whole Sonja Henie routine. Around then, I had an English teacher 
in junior high school, Miss Edwards, who used to write monologues 
for me to do, including one as Topsy and one as Anne of Green Gables. 
I recited them in junior-high assembly. I recited so much that the 
kids got bored with me. Then Miss Edwards introduced me to Shake- 
speare, and I recited speeches from the tragedies. I was so crazy to 
recite that I went to other people's churches to get on their entertain- 
ment programs. At fourteen, I played the lead in a school production 
of Ring Lardner's "June Moon." I was awful. I felt that the audience 
was bored. I knew there was something wrong, but I didn't know what 
it was. I didn't do any more school plays. I bided my time. 

In 1943, when I was in my senior year, I took part in one of the 
auditions that the producer John Golden regularly held for young new 
talent. They were attended by agents and directors and casting people. 
I got up and tried to do a dramatic scene, playing a woman who 
stabbed her husband to death. The man running the auditions called 
me aside and said, "Look, you're a little girl. Can't you do something 
more appropriate for a little girl?" So I did Miss Edwards' monologue 
as Anne of Green Gables how she was an orphan, and hated the color 
of her hair. I was immediately offered a job by George Abbott's secre- 
tary to go to the Orient with a U.S.O. show and play in "What a 
Life." But I was sixteen, still under age, and my father refused to sign 
the necessary papers. He wanted me to finish school. Impatiently, I 
finished school and graduated. That summer, I worked as a salesclerk 
in a Viennese candy store near Times Square. I knew a boy named 
Steve Sdieuer he was a Yale boy I had met at my John Golden audi- 
tionand he introduced me to Herbert Berghof, the actor, who was 
then with the New School for Social Research, and who became my first 
acting teacher. Berghof told me that I should be an actress, that I should 
study full time. I went to my father and said, "Daddy, this man says 
I'm an artist." My father put me out of the house. Acting, he said, was 
a profession for a whore. Catherine was married by then, so I went to 



live with. her. Berghof helped me get a scholarship to the Neighbor- 
hood Playhouse, and in September of 1943 I started studying there 
full time, from morning to night. My first real part was in the school's 
demonstration performance of a scene from "Peer Gynt/' in which I 
played the ingenue in love with Peer Gynt. My father came to see 
me. He didn't say anything to me afterward, but he sat there all the 
way through. 

At the Playhouse, I was battling to be the best. That was all. It 
was a purely competitive feeling. I didn't think anyone else could act. 
I thought I was the only one. I was absolutely blind to the needs of 
everyone else. I was thrown in with other actors, but I was a complete 
egotist. When I was told that I had to learn to speak well, or that I 
was showing off rather than doing the part, I was furious. I didn't 
know how to cope with something like that. I was a monologist. I 
was a loner. I didn't know the first thing about what it meant to work 
with other people. The main effect the school had was to shake me up; 
I began to get my first inkling that the theatre was a group effort. But 
I didn't wake up completely until much later, and then it was thanks 
to the influence of Lee Strasberg. He is, I think, a saint for actors. Ac- 
tors are looked down on by so many people. A young, uneducated 
actor battles to find strength by using his own abilities. Lee Strasberg 
helped me find that strength. The reason so many actors and actresses 
talk about him with a kind of reverence is that they know from tough 
experience how rare it is to find a teacher who really knows how to 
help them. I had joined the Actors' Studio when it was founded, by 
Robert Lewis, Cheryl Crawford, and Elia Kazan, in 1948, but the 
class was too big and I was among those who had to leave; then, in 
1950, when Lee was brought into the Studio, I was asked to join again. 
I have been extremely lucky in being exposed to some of the most 
dedicated teachers in the theatre to Herbert Berghof at the New 
School and Sandy Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse as well as 
to Lee Strasberg, They are all purists and dedicated men. Strasberg 
makes the actor all-important. He gives the actor a tremendous sense 
of security. He's an extremely practical man, and he knows how much 
time it takes to develop an actor. He's the most loving, patient teacher. 
He levels with you. He knows how to praise the actor; in your worst 
work he will always find something that is good, even while he is expos- 
ing the trickery and the fears that lead an actor to resort to trickery. He 



always leaves the actor his self-respect. I learned more about acting 
from him than from anybody else. I started out as an instinctive ac- 
tress who was absolutely terrified of taking direction and advice. I'd 
always say, "No, I'll find it myself," and then immediately get into a 
kind of contest with the director. I learned from Lee how to listen 
to a director. I learned how to take help from a director and not care 
about whether it was his idea or my idea to begin with; I learned 
that by working with other people I'd find a way to make my per- 
formance as good as possible the only thing that mattered. 

Altogether, it took me over ten years to gain confidence in myself. 
In 1944, after a year at the Neighborhood Playhouse, I was suddenly 
offered the part of Anya, the ingenue, in Eva Le Gallienne's road- 
company production of "The Cherry Orchard," directed by Margaret 
Webster and Eva Le Gallienne. I put down my fee of seventy dollars 
and joined Actors' Equity as a full fledged member. Suddenly I was 
being paid seventy-five dollars a week for sixteen weeks on tour. I'd 
never been anywhere on a trip, and suddenly I was going to Boston, 
Chicago, Cincinnati, and all kinds of whistle stops, too. I was com- 
pletely uneducated, I knew nothing about Chekhov's plays. I didn't 
even know who he was. Eva Le Gallienne was the star, playing Lyu- 
bov Andreyevna, and I didn't know who Eva Le Gallienne was, either. 
Joseph Schildkraut played Leonid Andreyevitch. I had never heard 
of him. I didn't know that he was a fine actor, and the son of a fine 
actor. I roomed with two other girls, and one of them, Madeleine 
L'Engle, who understudied the role of Charlotta Ivanovna and ap- 
peared in the party scene with me, took me in hand and introduced 
me to books about the theatre and its history, and to 6ther books. We 
had discussions; it had never occurred to me before that actors dis- 
cussed what they called "the author's intention." In the cities, Made- 
leine took me to museums. The only museum I'd ever been in up to 
then was the Museum of Natural History once. I began to get a 
smattering of knowledge of the arts. And I began to learn something 
about procedure and routine in the world of the theatre. I missed a 
cue once in a performance, and although Miss Le Gallienne didn't get 
furious, or anything like that, she let me know what it means if you 
hold up the progress of a play. I learned that you didn't call Eva Le 
Gallienne "Eva;" you called her "Miss Le Gallienne." I learned what 
respect means, and learned something about how to behave. I learned 



that when you were on the road you saved your money; you didn't 
eat much, and if you bought anything, it was a book. None of this 
was really in my own nature to do, but I went along with the others 
In order to belong, and by going along I began to develop my own 
knowledge and taste. 

When I returned to New York, I took a thirty-five-dollar-a-month 
room, with bath and linen service, on lower Fifth Avenue. I began 
to learn that people can be terribly generous when they believe 
in you. At one time, when I was practically starving, and couldn't 
afford a telephone, Sam Jaffe, a very fine actor who lived in the 
neighborhood,* would deliver messages to me about available jobs. 
Later on, Mainbocher, who had worked on costumes for me for a 
play, would recommend me for jobs he heard about. I had played in 
a classic. I had an agent. Now I went and read for what turned out to 
be a series of smash flops. In February, 1945, I played a hillbilly 
in "Signature," a melodrama by Elizabeth McFadden, which 
closed after two performances. I acted with Jessie Royce Landis in 
two plays that lasted about a week "The Last Dance," an adapta- 
tion by Peter Goldbaum and Robin Short of "Dodsdancen," by Strind- 
berg, and "Magnolia Alley/' by George Batson. I was in a flop with 
Shirley Booth "Love Me Long," by Doris Frankel. In March, 
1946, I was in the Equity Library Theatre production of "This Prop- 
erty Is Condemned," by Tennessee Williams, in which Eli Wallach 
played the male lead. When I first saw him, I said he was too old for 
the part. (He was thirty.) I was told by Terese Hayden, a good young 
actress, who directed the play for the E.L.T., "When you learn to act 
as well as he does, then you can make statements about people being 
too old or too young for a part." Three days later, I fell in love with 
Eli. We were married in 1948. He moved into my room, and we bought 
a refrigerator and a hot plate. Just before my marriage, I was in the 
first play I had respected since "The Cherry Orchard." It was the 
Broadway production, with Margaret Phillips and Tod Andrews, of 
"Summer and Smoke," by Tennessee Williams, which lasted for a 
hundred performances and wasn't put on again until April, 1952, when 
it was produced Off Broadway, with Geraldine Page, and was a big 
hit. I played Nellie Ewell, the little girl. I had good actors to work 
with Margaret Phillips and Tod Andrews and it was a beautiful 
play. It was exciting and interesting to play a character who had a 



mind and knew all about life. After that, I got in on the heyday of live 
dramatic shows on television. In those days, you'd get a different part 
to do every three weeks. One week I'd be playing Annie Oakley on 
"The Quaker Oats Show/' and the third week after that I'd be play- 
ing a murderess in some mystery drama. In 1951, our first child, Peter, 
was born. A few weeks later, I was right back in television. 

In December, 1953, I was in my first Broadway hit, "Oh, Men! Oh, 
Women!," by Edward Chodorov. It was a fine comedy, and I felt that 
in it I was doing my first really good acting. I'd been studying with Lee 
Strasberg for three years by then, and I had begun to discover some- 
thing about the exciting process that takes place when, beginning in 
rehearsals, you really get to work on a part. You get to know the per- 
son you play. You protect the character you play. You can make the 
audience shut up and listen. You show one of the wonders of life 
that every human being is different. The rhythm of the character 
takes over, but you're never mesmerized; you're the one in control. 
In 1954, I went to live in London for a year, while Eli appeared there 
in "The Teahouse of the August Moon." After our return, our second 
child, Roberta, was born. When she was three months old, I appeared 
on Broadway, with Edward G. Robinson and Gena Rowlands, in 
"Middle of the Night/' by Paddy Chayefsky. Occasionally, I'd bring 
the baby backstage and leave her in my dressing room, asleep, while I 
went on. The stagehands sometimes baby-sat for me. It worked out 
fine. I learned a lot in that play. For one thing, I was still learning 
how to take advice. In one scene with Eddie Robinson, where he told 
me I played his daughter that he wanted to marry a young girl, it 
was supposed to be a blow to me. So I wanted to dramatize the point 
that it was a blow. I wanted to walk away. Eddie said, "No, she would 
never do that." At first, I was sore. He said, "It's more effective if you 
don't show them. The cliche is to show them." And he was right. Not 
because he was an older, more seasoned actor but because he was an 

I want to be the best actress I can be. I'm competitive about it, but 
I'm not obsessed by it. When I go to the theatre and see Kim Stanley 
or Geraldine Page, I'm thrilled by what she is doing. At the same time, 
I work constantly to make myself free to act to my fullest capacity. 
Playing in "Brecht on Brecht," with Lotte Lenya, Dane Clark, George 
Voskovec, Viveca Lindfors, and Michael Wager, I have admired 



them all so much. Viveca is capable of opening her mouth and letting 
out a scream. I am still afraid to do that. I don't take big chances. For 
that, you need freedom. Maureen Stapleton has it. Kim Stanley has it. 
Geraldine Page has it. And, of course, Eli has it. They dare. And 
Marlon Brando is the daddy of them all in that. He dares and defies, 
and I love it in him. In all of them. I love them for it. 



People talk of magk in the theatre. "Magic" is a mis- 
leading word. The pure work is all that matters to 
the actor. Magic is for the audience to discover. Magic 
is no concern of ours. 

I was born on January 21, 1922, in Birmingham, England, and was 
taken at the age of a few weeks to Hurstpierpoint, in Sussex, where my 
family lived about eight miles from Brighton and forty miles from 
London and where my father was headmaster of the Hurstpierpoint 
Church of England School. I have one brother, John, who is three 
years older than I am, and who works as a local-government official 
in Brighton, in the Rate Office in the town hall. I have one sister, 
Mary, six years younger than I am, who lives with my parents in 
Hurstpierpoint. My parents, Edward Harry and Mary Scofield, just hap- 
pened to give all three of us children Biblical names. My father, who 
has retired as headmaster but still occasionally teaches at nearby schools, 
is a literate kind of person and also a very open-air man. When we 
were children, he had us play cricket and other games; he is that kind 
of schoolmaster. His main interest, however, has always been in teach- 
ing. He taught children up to the age of fourteen mathematics, history, 



geography, and the rest. Our family is still somehow very close, al- 
though parents so easily lose track of their children. I live about seven 
miles north of my parents' village, at the edge of the village of Bal- 
combe, in Sussex in an Edwardian house my wife and I bought in 
1951. I was married in 1943 to the actress Joy Parker, and we have two 
children Martin, seventeen, who goes to The King's School, a board- 
ing school in Canterbury, and Sarah, ten, who lives at home and goes 
to Trevelyan School, a girls' school, in Haywards Heath, about 
four miles south of Balcombe, and whose main passion at the mo- 
ment is riding. I recently bought Sarah a horse of her own absolute 
lunacy which we keep at a farm near our house. I ride a bit myself; 
I learned just in order to ride with my daughter, and now I love it. 
Sussex is very beautiful. I wanted to go back to that part of the 
country where I lived as a child, at the foot of the South Downs, in 
Hurstpierpoint. We lived near wonderful bare chalky hills, where I 
used to walk. Now we live a little bit inland on the weald, where 
the plain is undulating and wooded. My wife is not a dedicated ac- 
tress. Often, she takes a part in a play, many times with me. My 
children aren't the least bit interested in what I do in the theatre. 
Children like to forget about their parents' careers, I think, and all 
the claims that their parents' work makes on them. When I came to 
America to appear in "A Man for All Seasons," my children stayed 
in England, in school. It was our first long separation. I wasn't in the 
least startled to have a letter from Sarah in which she wrote, "I hope 
you're enjoying yourself in America. I doubt it." It pleases me that 
the theatre means nothing to the children. I like to leave it behind. I 
just like to go home. Children eventually get recognized as totally in- 
dependent creations. They seem to lead the way for you to understand 
them. It's easy for me to see what they want and what they are. That's 
the kind of thing actors are so good at putting themselves in other 
people's shoes. I'd never lived in a big city for any length of time be- 
fore I came to America. I'm sort of a country actor. When I'm in 
England, my schedule is bound up with my family. When I'm in a 
play in London, I'm part of my family until four; then I catch a 
train to London. I get to the theatre about an hour and a half before 
a performance. Commuting from the country is quite hard work but 
still worth it. I like the silence of the country. I like to be by myself 
a good bit. Mostly, I walk among the beautiful chalk hills. Profession- 



ally, I've never done anything I haven't wanted to do since being in a 
position to refuse work. I could live without acting, I think. I could 
very easily work on a farm. 

I somehow don't think literally of being born just of being brought 
up. I attended my father's school, as a day student, until I was eleven. 
At that time, it was in a Victorian Gothic building, with an arched 
stone doorway and imitation church windows. My father is a terribly 
fair's-fair man, and I was never favored because I was the son of the 
headmaster. He was very much the disciplinarian in those days, and I 
got the rough end of both sticks, in a superficial way. The children at 
Father's school were my friends. I sledged with them on the short grass 
in the hills, and played football with them, and looked for birds' eggs. 
I played a great deal of tennis with my brother, who was much better 
at it than I was. I played a rather defensive game; it wasn't my instinct 
to rush to the net, and all that. I was not a good student. I couldn't 
do mathematics. All I seemed to be good at was reciting poetry. At 
the age of nine, I did the "quality of mercy" speech in a recitation 
of the trial scene from "The Merchant of Venice," put on at Christ- 
mastime. The school was hung with paper chains and holly, and 
had a general kind of cozy feeling then, at the end of the term. In 
choosing parts for the boys to do in the play, my father decided that 
I should be the Portia. 

At the age of twelve, I started going to school in Brighton, commut- 
ing by train and bicycle to Varndean School for Boys, where I was a 
leading member of the Dramatic Society. My first part, when I was 
thirteen, was Juliet. The Romeo was not very good, but my Juliet was 
a sensation. It's the only part I've ever played of which I can remember 
every word. It has just stayed. At fourteen, I played Rosalind in "As 
You Like It." Then my voice went a little low, and I next played 
Prince Hal in "Henry IV," Part I. From then on, it seemed pretty 
clear to me that I would become an actor. For a boy who was hopeless 
at everything else, acting was a tremendous release. I wasn't used to the 
kind of freedom that doing something well gives one. That made it all 
the clearer. My parents were sensible about it. They could see that I 
was totally blank to the sciences and to mathematics, and that acting 
was a practical thing for me to do. But they warned me about it. 
"Precarious" is the word they always used about it. 

When I was fifteen, I made jny professional debut, in a touring pro- 



duction of "The Only Way," at the Theatre Royal in Brighton, which 
is one of the loveliest theatres in all England, with a horseshoe-shaped 
circle, and red plush and gilt, and all the old theatre atmosphere, 
pretty much as it has been for a hundred years. It's very much alive as 
a theatre today. There's always something to see there. The play "The 
Only Way" was an adaptation of "A Tale of Two Cities," starring 
John Martin Harvey, who was more or less the Henry Irving of his 
day. He was making one of his ostensibly farewell tours. They asked 
for volunteers for the crowd scenes. I turned up at the stage door, 
was taken on at ten shillings a week, or about thirty cents a perform- 
ance, and was given a cudgel to brandish in a crowd scene. The play, 
and being part of it, was awe-inspiring. Sir John had a remark- 
able style of acting, in the tradition of Irving highly dramatic and 
rather operatic and I was deeply affected. Not that I couldn't sleep 
at night; hardly anything has ever made me not sleep at night. It was 
just that one was aware that one was close to something as authentic as 
the boqks one read, as authentic as "Jane Eyre/' I was in the play for 
two weeks. At the end, I liked that cudgel they'd given me so much 
that I took it. I walked out with it under my mackintosh. I still have 

In my last term at school, I was due to take an examination for my 
school certificate, but suddenly I was fed up with commuting. I left, 
and never graduated officially. I was sixteen, and was very much aware 
of my failure to make headway as a scholar. It was rather depressing, 
especially inasmuch as my brother was good at school. I was quite fair- 
haired in those days, the way one sometimes is before going dark. I 
was round-faced, but I'd already begun to have lines in my face. It's 
always surprised me that I grew so many of them. I suppose it has 
something to do with the way the flesh settles down over the bones of 
one's face. I don't think it has anything to do with what life has done. 
The time was a year or so before the start of the Second World War. 
The manager of Brighton's Theatre Royal and the headmaster of 
Varndean School helped me get a scholarship at the Croydon Reper- 
tory Theatre School, in a suburb of London, where I went for two 
terms. It was all very unnerving. I wasn't at all strengthened as an 
actor, but I did get on with a bit of practice. I did some public per- 
formances, including a big chunk of "Peer Gynt," in which I played 
the feeble-minded peasant bridegroom. It was the first time I'd done 



anything that gave me the feeling of bringing a character to life. It 
was a beginning the simple business of taking part in productions 
and the Croydon brought me into a kind of contact with the profes- 
sional world of the theatre. Then the Croydon was disbanded. It was 
a time in England when everyone was being given a gas mask. I didn't 
know what to do at all. I wanted to get on with some work. I heard of 
a school called the London Mask Theatre School, which was attached 
to the Westminster Theatre. There I made my student debut, on April 
16, 1940, as the Third Clerk and the First Soldier in John Drink- 
water's "Abraham Lincoln/' starring Stephen Murray. I had hardly 
been to the theatre at all before I left Varndean School. The first 
play that touched me was "Desire Under the Elms," put on at the 
Westminster Theatre, in which I played somebody in the family 
party. The school was a very lively one. We had good teachers, 
including Eileen Thorndike, Sybil Thorndike's sister, who gave 
voice lessons. She had an aptitude for teaching Shakespeare, and be- 
cause she was a teacher who had been an actress, she communicated 
an extraordinary love of the work. By showing me her own mas- 
tery which Sybil also has, of course of the meanings and of the 
changes of tone necessary to keep it interesting, she was able to make 
me understand Shakespeare and the value of each word. Sussex has 
a kind of Cockney accent, and at this point I started gradually 
to lose it. We had bombs in London in 1940, and the school 
moved to the country to Bideford, in Devonshire. I stayed for ten 
months after the move. It was rather like college life. Teaching acting 
is a tremendously intangible business, because how can you? Often, a 
dramatic school is a very difficult place to progress in. But you can 
find out some technical things, and you do get physical practice. At 
that time, we all felt the stretch toward John Gielgud, Ralph Richard- 
son, Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, Edith Evans. We had to 
encompass big scenes of Shakespeare according to standards we were 
already aware of. But acting is not a job for someone who is good at 
learning or who has an aptitude for copying. It's got to be more than 
that. It's got to be positive understanding and illumination. But the 
school, for what it was, was fine. From a nucleus at the school a theatri- 
cal company was formed, in which I played Dan in "Night Must 
Fall," by Emlyn Williams, and it was a big step forward for me. We 
went to Cambridge with our production of "Noah," by Andre Obey, 



and hoped to start a repertory theatre there, but Eileen Thorndike be- 
came ill, and we had to abandon our plans. That was the end of that. 
It was a sad time. 

I still hadn't been called up by the Army. I returned to London, and 
in running around to agents' offices looking for a job I tracked down 
Robert Atkins, a splendid old gentleman of the theatre, who had a 
company called the Bankside Players. He gave me a job, at seven 
pounds a week, with his tour of "The Taming of the Shrew," which we 
did for the troops all over England. Atkins occasionally played the 
lead himself, with Claire Luce, the American musical-comedy star, 
playing Katharina. I played Vincentio, an old character part. At nine- 
teen, I had the kind of competence that was approved of in those days. 
I never had any illusions about the quality of the work I was doing. It 
was a routine thing. I had seen enough theatre by then to know. That 
job ended after a few months, and through friends of Eileen Thorn- 
dike I found my next job, in a very portable tour of "Medea," with 
Sybil Thorndike and Lewis T. Casson. I was supposed to join the 
tour in a village near Aberystwyth, in Wales. They were stuck for a 
man, and I was hired to play a messenger. I'd never seen "Medea" 
up to the night I reached the village and saw that production, just 
before I was to join the cast. I was shaken and shattered by it. It had 
extraordinary simplicity and a kind of magnitude. One recognized that 
one was seeing something big. The power of the play and the size and 
range of the emotions in it were clear and overwhelming. The produc- 
tion had a necessarily imposed stark simplicity, because the scenery 
and everything had to be moved from village to village. It gave the 
play an extra strength. I was impatient to start work. Before I could 
even begin, however, I came down with the mumps, and I was left 
behind in hospital for four weeks while the play went on with the 

On my return to London, I searched for work, more or less going 
where the wind blew me. I went on several tours one with "Jeannie," 
by Aim6e Stuart, a fragile Cinderella story set in Scotland, and another 
one with "Young Woodley," by John Van Druten, in which I played 
Ainger, the head prefect, Woodley's best friend. It was a time of flux in 
England. The theatre was waiting to see what would happen in the 
world. At one point, when I was in Newcastle upon Tyne, in Northum- 
berland, it turned out that my Army-application record, which I had 



filled out in Devonshire, had been destroyed in a bombing, and I was 
ordered to have another physical examination right there and then. I 
was turned down for military service on medical grounds; I could only 
suppose it was because my toes were crooked, since I heard an examiner 
say I wouldn't be able to wear Army boots. Nevertheless, I happen to 
be a tremendous walker and have never had a bit of trouble with my 
toes. So I went on with the tours. There was nothing much to the work, 
yet there was no other work to be had. It was a lowering time for me; I 
was trying to achieve a kind of competence, and generally absorbing 
the feeling of acting, and that's about all. Then Basil C. Langton asked 
me to join a production of "Hamlet" he was producing and starring in 
in Birmingham. He had seen me in "Young Woodley/' and he asked 
me to play Horatio. He had temporarily taken over the theatre occu- 
pied by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, whose owner and mana- 
ger, Sir Barry Jackson, had given up the theatre during the bombings, 
Margaret Leighton played a court lady, and Joy, my wife, played 
Ophelia. She was marvellous as Ophelia better than I was as Horatio. 
She had just the quality for it at the time, a kind of limpidity. It was 
a full-length "Hamlet," divided up into two sections, which were 
played on two successive nights all very odd, but a splendid produc- 
tion. Life suddenly had purpose for me. It's easy to lose one's sense cf 
direction in the theatre, in the early jobs. Now I found I had a sense 
of direction, and had an opportunity to develop what abilities I had. I 
was able to bring some imitative flair to the character of Horatio 
some knowledge of another person. I went as far as understanding 
Horatio's relationship to Hamlet and the rest of the people. It all fell 
into place. The audience felt it. There was the quality of silence, of 
intentness, that you get when they're listening and know what you're 
talking about. You know you've succeeded in showing them something 
they can believe in. The audience at Birmingham was very good, a very 
special audience, of the sort that attaches itself to a theatre rather 
than to the theatre. The audience got to know me. I became familiar 
to them, and that gave me a feeling of sureness. It's a very good feeling 
for an actor to get that the audience knows him and a difficult one 
to get in the commercial theatre. One of the fascinating things about 
an audience is that it always takes on a collective character. The kind 
of audience you have creates an atmosphere. I hate London first-night 
audiences. They're so cold, and always very unrepresentative. I was 



braced to hate my first night in America, with "A Man for All Sea- 
sons" which, incidentally, was a better production than the one in 
London but it went off with a bang. It was quite intoxicating. I 
didn't become a focus for the audience in Birmingham. There were 
plenty of other actors. It was just that I was a contributing member 
of the group. For most actors in the formative stage, the spotlight is 
harmful. It makes one set hard too soon, and possibly it makes one 
become a personality. There's no harm in it if you want to become the 
kind of actor whose primary concern is expressing your self to the 
audience. I hadn't, and haven't, any interest in doing that. The point is 
that if you're a personality to the audience, it becomes increasingly 
difficult to put yourself in other people's shoes, which is what I like to 
do. It's a much more interesting job to try to illuminate as many types 
of people as possible. I'm very, very cagey about my own personality. 
I've always been very secretive. 

Basil Langton took me along on a tour, underwritten by the Council 
for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, of Shaw's "Arms and 
the Man/' starring himself. Yvonne Mitchell was in it, playing Raina 
Petkoff, and so was Joy, playing Louka, the gypsy girl, and I played 
Major Sergius Saranoff. We had quite a good standard of work. We 
used to go to factory hostels and give performances before and after 
night shifts. It made one extremely adaptable. One learned to act 
under any conditions, and I loved it. At the end of that tour, Basil 
Langton produced John Steinbeck's "The Moon Is Down" on tour 
and then in London, in June of 1943. I played a sort of major small 
part. In one free week between the tour and London, Joy and I got 
married. I stayed with Basil Langton for another repertory season, at 
the Theatre Royal in Bristol this time, and played Tybalt to his 
Romeo in "Romeo and Juliet." I knew the day was coming when 
I'd be leaving Langton. There was a good standard of work with him, 
but I was going along hit-or-miss professionally and I felt I had to 
move on to something else. 

When I left Basil Langton, I went on a second factory tour spon- 
sored by the C.E.M.A. of J. B. Priestley's play "I Have Been Here 
Before," in which I played Oliver Farrant. In the late summer of 
1944, I wrote to Barry Jackson, another splendid man in the theatre, 
asking him if he could give me a job in the Birmingham Repertory 
Theatre. At first he said no, and then a place turned up for me and 



he asked me to come along. My preoccupation at this time was to im- 
prove my equipment mainly my voice, and my use of it. You can 
train your body as a dancer does, and that's fine, but an actor doesn't 
dance. I was with the Birmingham Rep for two seasons, and it was 
there that for the first time I felt I had some power to choose and 
control what I wanted to illuminate. But it was all done in very 
embryonic fashion, and was not completely successful. One aspect of 
it was my finding the most economical way of doing what I wanted to 
do cutting out what was unnecessary to do. This may have come 
as a result of my playing a leading part in a play for the first time 
the part of Philip the Bastard in "King John." It isn't simply that one 
has more lines to speak in a leading part and so one must work 
harder. In a leading part, one stapes the whole structure of the play. 
One can't help doing that. Whatever the work of the director, it's got 
to be done through you. Another aspect was my finding, in most of 
the plays, the essence of the character; I found that in some odd spot 
or other it was actually illuminated, so that the character was made 
alive for the audience. The people in the audience could look and 
say they recognized that person. They could look and say they saw 
what the author meant. Not that you see the author's meaning stand- 
ing there on the stage. The actor should make you forget the existence 
of author and director, and even forget the actor. If an actor is 
devoting himself to what he is doing, the talent will be there, but 
in its least self-conscious manifestation. Some actors have the gift of 
being able to see and to do things by intuition, without knowing 
what it is they're seeing and doing. But it isn't enough to see and to 
do; you must know how to have control over your intuition. And try- 
ing to be natural is not the whole story. You find the truth within 
yourself only about twenty-five per cent of the time. The rest of the 
time, you find it outside. Yet being observant is a very tenuous kind 
of process. A great deal of conscious observation is not relevant. It's 
what remains with you without your having said "This is what I 
want to remember" that has the profoundest effect. This may be be- 
cause every one of us carries within himself something of all aspects 
of human nature. We may know Hitler because in some tiny part of 
us we're capable of being what he was and doing what he did. It can't 
all be observation. There are times when I can see more of myself 
in a part than I can at other times. In 1957, when I played in "A 



Dead Secret," by Rodney Ackland, in London, about a murder case 
of a particularly sordid kind, I took the part of a man who murdered 
just for money. I found the man a fascinating character, because he 
was so mean, so narrow, with his mind so shut to life and to humanity. 
1 could understand him. One could make the audience feel great 
sympathy for him because of his blindness. I found that part very 
exciting to do, and by then I felt that I had complete control over 
what I wanted to show. What an actor contributes onstage follows 
from his craft. His talent is something that is individual enough to be 
noticed. It is what any actor has to have. Whatever it is, it is no 
business of mine. My business is to have control over what I do. 

By 1946, after my two seasons at the Birmingham Rep, I had 
achieved a kind of technical balance. In addition to "King John," I 
now had behind me considerable experience in such parts as John 
Tanner in Shaw's "Man and Superman," and Dr. Wangel in Ibsen's 
"The Lady from the Sea," and Konstantin in Chekhov's "The Seagull," 
and also Mr. Toad in A. A. Milne's "Toad of Toad Hall," a show, with 
music by H. Fraser-Simson, based on Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind 
in the Willows." Odd as it may seem, a musical is tremendously good 
experience for technical purposes. Working with music brings you into 
much closer contact with the audience. You are not confined to the 
three walls plus the imaginary fourth wall; you include the audience 
more in the show a contact that is valuable later for ordinary plays. 
Once having got that crude kind of contact by singing and playing di- 
rectly to the audience and not pretending it's not there, you develop a 
kind of awareness that is with you when you are pretending the audi- 
ence is not there. In so many ways now, I was steaming ahead. I had 
come to know that too little technical ability results in affectation; one 
does things in one's own fashion, but ineptly and repetitively, as when 
one finds that using one's voice in a certain way is effective and then 
continues to use it that way because it is so effective. If one hasn't got 
sufficient resources to choose from, one falls back repetitively into the 
same old ways. I had a kind of routine now, the rhythmic pattern one 
achieves in one's work as a result of experience. I had had regular 
practice. Now I was free, and eager to explore. 

In 1946, Barry Jackson was asked to be an administrative director 
for three years at Stratford on Avon, and he asked me and Peter Brook 
and one or two others to go along with him. It was a very good pro- 



fessional opportunity, from a purely practical point of view. I went 
to Stratford, and stayed for three seasons. My voice developed, and 1 
had a chance to act with known and successful actors. I found Godfrey 
Tearle particularly helpful; he gave one a feeling of self-confidence, 
not by specific encouragement but by the way he treated one in general. 
And I must have been influenced in those days by Richardson, Gielgud, 
and Olivier, although I had then seen Olivier only in films. I was paid 
twenty pounds a week at first, which was quite a lot, and I started on 
a new phase of acting. The first character I played was Cloten in 
"Cymbeline;" I was able to make this oafish character, who is a little 
bit stupid, come very much to life. I was finished with the groundwork 
that I had had to lay and that every actor has to lay, and was able to 
find the clearest, simplest way of building the structure of the char- 
acter. Then I played Don Adriano de Armado in "Love's Labor's Lost/' 
and the title role in "Henry V," and again I found I didn't have to 
waste much time on the technical requirements of the part, and was 
free to create the character. I was now exploring aspects of human 
nature that I wanted to make clear to the audience. Shakespeare is 
particularly well suited to an actor who wants to make his own com- 
ment. The lines spoken by Shakespeare's characters mean something 
different to every actor, just as everybody who reads a book reads it 
differently. In contemporary plays, the actor is much more interpre- 
tive of the author's intention. Stratford was altogether different from 
Birmingham in many ways. I attracted attention that was national 
instead of purely local. Most of the critics gave me notices, some bad 
and some good, the latter more or less to the effect that here was a 
good new actor who had a faculty for getting under the skin of very 
different types of characters. The second season, I played Mercutio in 
"Romeo and Juliet" and the title role in "Pericles/* and I was able to 
consolidate what I had learned during the first season. Between sea- 
sons, I got some London jobs that were good for me professionally 
the part of Tegeus-Chromis, the lead, in "A Phoenix Too Frequent," 
by Christopher Fry, and the juvenile lead, Young Fashion, in Sir John 
Vanbrugh's "The Relapse, or Virtue in Danger," with Cyril Ritchard 
and Madge Elliott 

In 1948, my third season, I was asked to play Hamlet for the first 
time. The production was in Victorian dress, and Robert Helpmann 
and I played the lead on alternate nights. I played Hamlet again in 



1955, in a more conventionally costumed production, which we opened 
in Birmingham, took- to Moscow, and then brought to London. Any- 
one can play Hamlet. Any actor with facility and technical skill can 
play him, because the character has such universality. Macbeth is 
rather more specific. When I was first asked to play Hamlet, I was 
happy, of course, but I was immediately preoccupied with how I was 
going to play him. We rehearsed for the play off and on over a period 
of two months that had been allotted us for rehearsals of the three 
plays of that season; the others were "King John/* in which I played 
Philip, the King of France, and "The Merchant of Venice," in which 
I played Bassanio. In 1948, I was an actor with less developed abilities 
than in 1955, when I had more to bring to the part, and less. The first 
time, I was much more vulnerable, because I was younger; I had a less 
sophisticated approach to the play I was more naive. In 1955, I had 
more knowledge and more control over my abilities, and less frailty. 
One man can play Hamlet only one way. But the first time I wasn't so 
capable of analyzing what I was doing as I was later. However, I do 
know that I was temperamentally suited to the part in 1948, when I 
was twenty-six, in a way that is difficult to recapture. My Hamlet of 
1948 was frail. Claire Bloom played Ophelia, and she was so young 
then that she had a green ration book, the color of the ones given to 
children; mine was buff. In 1955, Mary Ure played Ophelia. The sec- 
ond time, my Hamlet had more positive assurance and there was 
probably less of Hamlet in it. The acting was better, the approach was 
more assured, but something had been lost. If I were to do it a third 
time, I might learn from the mistakes of the second. That second 
Hamlet aroused less sympathy, because I was deliberately trying to 
play it in a more positive way. The Russians were tremendously en- 
thusiastic about the production, however. We played for fourteen days 
in Moscow. Ours was" the first English-speaking dramatic company to 
have visited Moscow since the revolution. During the run, we were 
given a large reception by the Artists' Club. The Russians were inter- 
ested in us, and admiring. I felt a tremendous rapport with them with 
their vitality and their warmth and their enormous self-knowledge. 
You remember foreign voices coming out of faces; you don't remember 
what was said. But you know. Just as you know when people mean 
what they say. An actor can always gauge whether he has attention and 
approval from an audience, of any size. At the reception, we spoke to 



the Russians through an interpreter. We were all feeling rather tired 
but were trying to do our best, and the effort to communicate took 
tremendous concentration and energy. They were so hungry for every- 
thing they could learn about us. When we arrived for the reception, 
one of the other actors happened to tell me that he was so tired he felt 
he couldn't cope with it. There was a little old Russian actress near 
us, and she immediately gave us a lecture in Russian. She was such a 
fierce little old lady. I didn't understand a word she said, but I knew 
exactly what she meant. She meant that one relies on energy to gen- 
erate energy. And she was so right. Output in the theatre requires 
greater energy than anything else I know. Doubt of one's energy is 
the worst of all. One's output in the theatre requires energy of a sort 
that is never a factor in family life. Family energy generates itself. 
Social life outside the family can be exhausting. I don't care much for 
social life with people in the theatre. I'm rather good at being with 
people when I want to make the effort, but I'm bad at listening to 
people when I know what they're going to say. It isn't very interesting, 
and on the whole it's very draining. The interesting thing in the 
theatre is the work and working with people. I usually like the people 
in the work, but I can't go on with them outside the work as long as 
most actors can. And when I'm working on a part I'm thinking about it 
all the time, going over all the possibilities in my mind. I like to be 
alone when I'm working. 

After the 1948 season at Stratford, I went to London in a big way, 
playing Alexander, the lead, in Terence Rattigan's play "Adventure 
Story." It was a flop, but was artistically successful, and it led to my 
playing Treplef in a West End production of "The Seagull," with 
Mai Zetterling, Isabel Jeans, and Ian Hunter. For two years, from 
1950 to 1952, I was in "Ring Round the Moon," Christopher Fry's 
adaptation of a Jean Anouilh play, with Claire Bloom and Margaret 
Rutherford. During the run of "Ring Round the Moon/' I appeared 
on two Sunday nights in my own production of "Pericles," in London. 
Then I did a season of plays with John Gielgud at the Hammersmith 
Lyric Theatre, which is sort of Off Broadway. He and I took the lead 
parts, and most of the time he directed. We put on "Richard II," in 
which I played the lead and my wife played the Queen; Congreve's 
"The Way of the World/ 1 with Gielgud and Margaret Rutherford, in 
which I played my first comic role in London Witwoud with a lot of 



splendid ladies; and Thomas Otway's "Venice Preserved/' directed by 
Peter Brook, with Pamela Brown and Eileen Herlie. Gielgud, of course, 
was one of the ones we had gone to see and learn from in the early days. 
He has a tremendous interest in anybody who is new in the theatre, 
because he cares about new life in the theatre. He is a very considerable 
person, a genius, who brings life to everything he does. As a director, 
he never tried to impose his own conception of the role on me, but 
paradoxically, with an actor as individual and powerful as Gielgud it 
is impossible not to feel that his way is the way you should follow. 
He has total mastery of all aspects of the theatre. He participates 
with tremendous energy in every aspect of a production he is in- 
volved in. His knowledge is very stimulating. He has style. Every- 
thing he does he informs with a beauty of style, both vocal and physi- 
cal. But one doesn't model oneself on anyone else. One wants to go 
one's own way. I'm aware of being referred to by some people as the 
new Olivier. Every strong new actor is called the new Olivier at some 
point. How can one be the new anything? I've never worked with 
Olivier, but I've always admired him. 

One of the most important seasons I've ever played in was the one at 
the Phoenix Theatre in London in 1955-56, with Peter Brook directing. 
We put on three plays, in all of which I played the lead; one was T. S. 
Eliot's "The Family Reunion," with Sybil Thorndike, and the others 
were the "Hamlet" we took to Moscow, and Dennis Cannan's and 
Pierre Bost's adaptation of Graham Greene's "The Power and the 
Glory." The program of three plays depended mostly on me, and it was 
the most that had ever been demanded of me. After the overwhelm- 
ing experience of seeing Sybil Thorndike in "Medea," I was a bit 
wary of her, but I found her very down-to-earth and warm and 
friendly not the remote type of leading actress at all. One of the most 
enjoyable plays for me was "The Power and the Glory," in which I 
played the priest, because I had to go further in one direction than I'd 
ever gone before. The play presented me with bigger demands on my 
abilities and also took me in a new direction. The character of the 
priest was an extremely intricate one he was drawn as a mess of a 
human being and I had to make a truthful character of him 
somehow. The man was a priest; he was also a peasant. I didn't know 
how I should make him sound. It gave me an opportunity to work in a 
completely nonclassical, realistic style, in which I could still use more 



of my classical training than ever before. In "Venice Preserved," I also 
had to go further, playing an extremely violent revolutionary. This 
role demanded that I be extroverted and tough. Up to that point, 
sensitivity was mostly what had been demanded of me. 

In a sense, I feel that I'm part of no group in the theatre. I come 
sort of halfway between two schools one exemplified by John Giel- 
gud, with the classic style of speaking, and the other by the Royal 
Court Theatre, which puts on the work of so many of the good new 
playwrights. I'm somewhat detached from both groups, although I do 
come out of the same sort of stable as most English actors, in a 
general way. There's something about English actors that makes them 
depend on themselves. I was brought up in the theatre of articulate- 
ness. The plays of Shakespeare and Shaw deal with articulate people 
people who can express their thoughts. In the plays of Chekhov, on 
the other hand, everything the characters say has nuances. I don't have 
a psychological approach to acting; fundamentally, I have an intuitive 
approach. For me, the totally intellectual approach is never satisfactory. 
What matters to me is whether I like the play, for one thing, and, for 
another, whether I can recognize and identify myself with the charac- 
ter I'm to play. My intuition for a part has failed me only once for 
the part of Thomas More in Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons/' 
which opened in London in July of 1960. I felt a tremendous warmth 
toward the character. Then I came to play him, and I didn't know 
how. As the play is written, it gives nothing more than the bare lines 
of what the man is saying. It's all in the lines. There is no opportunity 
for embroidery. I had to start from scratch and just work on facts, 
making myself totally faithful to what was on the page: More was a 
lawyer, a man of tremendous faith, a complex and subtle character. 
Everything in him led inevitably toward a kind of forensic point of 
view. It was a rather cold-blooded way of ordering one's mind. I found 
that the part had what seemed like dogmatic exposition. Simply saying 
the lines for what they were worth would make More sound like a very 
pompous and noisy man. If I said the lines with all the intensity they 
seemed to require, he would seem an aggressive man. And he was not 
an aggressive man. So I had to find a way of making the man sound not 
pompous and not aggressive. And yet he had to sound strong. If you 
can see it, then you can do it. First, I had to find the way the man 
would feel; then I was able to find the way he should sound, Eventu- 



ally, I discovered that if I used a specific range of my voice, and char- 
acteristics of my voice that I had never used before, I might make him 
sound mild, even though what the lines themselves said was not mild. 
When I played Hamlet, I used a lot of voice. For Thomas More, I used 
a voice you wouldn't hear at all if I used it for Hamlet. I used an ac- 
cent for More that was absolutely a bastard thing of my own. My 
parents are Midland people, with a very regional accent, and I drew 
somewhat on this accent and mixed it with some others. The way More 
sounded just came out of my characterization of him as a lawyer. His 
dryness of mind, I thought, led him to use a sort of dryness of speech. 
It evolved as I evolved the character. I would flatten or elongate a 
vowel in a certain way to get a certain effect I wanted. Not too much 
happened to the voice as a result of More's being a man of faith and 
spirituality. One of the great traps in playing a man of spiritual depth 
is that one is given only a certain number of lines, and if they are not 
made to sound absolutely true they are likely to sound very self- 
satisfied and sentimental. The false note is so often struck. Next, I 
discovered More's humor, and knew that that would be the thing to 
make him not smug. Then, More was a flesh-and-blood man, with 
strong family affections. His spiritual attitudes did not put him at all 
in a backwater of life. He was fully alive and sensual, in the true sense 
of the word. He used his senses. He enjoyed the things of life food 
and wine and the rest. He was reluctant to die. He didn't relish physi- 
cal discomfort. And he wouldn't want to be hurt. At one point in the 
play, he says, "This is not the stuff of which martyrs are made." Be- 
cause you're thinking and feeling all these things, the voice comes out 
in a certain way. It's constant communication between thinking and 
feeling. Otherwise, the muscles don't work right, don't take the right 
shape. One's voice follows the rest. It somehow becomes a willing in- 
strument. I didn't go very far in my idea of how I should look as 
Thomas More: thin and pale, with a hat on and a gown on. That's 
the picture. Actors get into some awful habits through their preoccu- 
pation with their faces. You have to look at your face in order to get 
it looking right, but you get more tired of your face than other people 
do. As soon as you're in rehearsal, it's necessary to start thinking about 
what you look like. You're enclosed by the structure of the author's 
writing. You have to hold back on deciding how you should look until 
you find what is commensurate with what the lines require. I don't 



think very often of how I myself look: I've got hair brown hair with 
gray in it and lines in my forehead, lines down past my mouth, and 
bags under my eyes, and my height is just over six feet. That is the 
kind of professional knowledge one has. 

I find radio a marvellous medium for an actor to work in, and I've 
done a lot of radio work in England, including reading the whole of 
"The Fall," by Albert Camus, and Gogol's "The Diary of a Madman." 
I've played in movies "That Lady," with Olivia de Havilland, in 
which I played Philip of Spain, and "Carve Her Name with Pride," 
in which I played a British spy. I would like to work in more films, if 
I could be sure of the director. But I've got the stamp of the classical 
actor, and I don't know whether film people want that. The greater 
amounts of money to be earned in films are no inducement. The minute 
one begins to earn large money, one is burdened with so many superflu- 
ous and extraneous preoccupations. My wife and I both feel that way. 
I don't like working in television. It seems to have the worst of both 
worlds the responsibility of a play in a three-hour stretch, together 
with all the disadvantages of the proximity of the camera and the 
hazards of a mechanical medium. At the age of forty, I plan to play 
King Lear for the first time. Forty is just the right age to play him. 
I long ago decided I must play him when I was not too young. Yet to 
play that kind of old man you need a particular kind of energy that an 
old man doesn't have. He must be old for the audience, but not an 
ordinary old man. 



As an actor, 1 have plenty of time. I'm in no rush. 

I was born on March 30, 1937, in Richmond, Virginia, the younger of 
two children. My sister, Shirley MacLaine, the movie star, is three 
years older than I am. Until I was in high school, my mother, 
born Kathlyn MacLean, taught acting and directed plays put on by 
local amateur drama groups, and her mother had done the same. My 
father, Ira O. Beaty, used to be a psychology teacher and public-school 
administrator, and is now in the real-estate business. He's a very good 
violinist, and he might have become a concert violinist if he had taken 
the gamble as a young man. I changed the spelling of my name so that 
people would pronounce it "Batey" instead of "Beety." Shirley, who 
changed the spelling of the name MacLean for the same sort of 
reason, took dancing lessons from early childhood, and she grav- 
itated naturally toward the stage. All through our childhood, she 
was bigger and stronger than I was, and it seemed to me that she 
always knew what she was doing. What I'm doing now is still a 
little bit of a mystery to me. We were brought up as Baptists, and 
attended church and Sunday school regularly. To this day, I don't 
smoke much, or drink. When I had to smoke cigarettes as the dissolute 
and amoral young Italian in "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone," I 



could do it, but I didn't like it. When I was five, my mother gave me 
a walk-on part in a play she was directing. I walked across the stage, 
saying nothing, and that was it. She told me I was very good. My first 
real acting part came about then, too in a class play at school, before 
an audience of parents. It was a Christmas play, and I played the part 
of one of three toy soldiers under a Christmas tree. All three of us wore 
soldier suits, and we were required to take a bow to music. I made a 
big, sweeping bow, the biggest of all, holding my soldier's peaked cap 
in my hand. I loved it. My mother told me I was very good. I did it 
right, she said. I didn't waste it. My next part was in another of my 
mother's productions, the play "My Sister Eileen," put on by her 
little-theatre group in our neighborhood. I was one of a group of boys 
who rattled sticks against the grating outside Eileen's basement apart- 
ment. I was seven then, and felt I was kind of cute. Everybody in the 
cast had a crush on the actress who played Eileen. I was the young, 
young, young one with a crush on Eileen. I got in everybody's way 
most of the time. Shirley was in that play, too. I thought she was good. 
My last childhood appearance on the stage was at a local movie house 
in Richmond, in a stage show directed by my mother; all I know is 
that I was in there somewhere. Shirley went on working with my 
mother until she was about twelve. In the summer of 1944, when I was 
seven, we made a family excursion to New York. We stayed with an 
uncle in Larchmont and saw a lot of Broadway shows. "Oklahoma!" 
was the first one. I was thrilled by it. I fell in love with musicals. We 
bought the recording of the songs from "Oklahoma!/' and when we 
went home, I listened to it over and over. I'll never forget that over- 
ture. The next year, we came to New York again, and I asked to see 
"Oklahoma!" again. My father took me, and left me at the theatre. 
When the movie version came out, in 1955, I went to see it about a 
dozen times. 

In my early teens, I decided that I didn't want to miss any of the 
advantages of a normal life. I was an above-average student in high 
school, and took part in a lot of extracurricular activities. I went out 
for football and made the first team. I was a letter man in baseball 
and basketball, and was elected president of my senior class. In high 
school, I didn't do anything in dramatics, because I considered it 
sissy. Because of my football record in high school, I was offered 
athletic scholarships at ten different colleges and universities, but 


I decided to turn them all down. I'd had enough of football. Foot- 
ball can get into your blood and ego. The cheers and admiration 
can go to your head too easily. Besides, I wasn't really passionate 
about athletics. In basketball, I'd often been more interested in 
kidding around and having fun than in winning games, I'd never 
taken anything very seriously. I'd always got good grades without 
studying. I'd talked vaguely about studying law, but I'd been sort 
of a goof-off, always clowning around. After high school, I said 
to myself, "Now 111 do what I want to do," and in 1956 I entered 
Northwestern University, where I attended classes regularly and joined 
one of the fraternities. I did two plays in college: "Bus Stop/' in which 
I played Bo, the leading man, and "Under Milk Wood/' by Dylan 
Thomas, in which I played three characters a clothing salesman, a sea 
captain, and a poet. After a year, I suddenly realized that I wanted to 
be an actor, and that I wasn't going to learn acting at Northwestern. In 
1957, I left college and came to New York. I lived from day to day. I 
stayed in a rooming house and got a job as a sandhog at thirty dollars 
a day. Then I got an easier job playing cocktail piano at a little res- 
taurant. I had taken piano lessons for a couple of years while I was 
going to high school, but I'd never practiced; I'd just picked up 
enough facility to get away with a simple rendition of "Tea for Two." 
After I'd been in New York a short while, I started to take acting 
lessons with Stella Adler. Six months after that, a friend of mine 
asked me to audition for a "Kraft Television Theatre" play called 
"The Curly-Headed Kid," and I got the leading role a rebel, a vaga- 
bond, a kid who went from town to town searching for affection and 
attention. The part came to me easily. I also appeared in "Lamp 
Unto My Feet," a television series, in which I played a son who 
couldn't communicate with his father, and a sailor who came home 
from the service and couldn't adjust to his family again, and things 
like that fifteen shows in all, each lasting half an hour. From then 
on, I belonged to the agents. I signed up with the Music Corporation of 
America. I did a lot of daytime soap opera on television and ap- 
peared several times in a series called "Look Up and Live," and 
was in a five-part program called "The Family/' with Hiram 
Sherman and Edward Andrews. Very often, I had little more to do 
than walk across the stage, but I earned about three hundred dol- 
lars a week. By this time, I was living in a furnished apartment in the 



West Sixties. I also got a job, for an additional hundred dollars a week, 
playing cocktail piano at a couple of cocktail lounges. It was a lazy 
job, but I was quite content with it; the only thing that upset me was 
when a hip saxophone player told me I was a square, musically. I 
had come to New York thinking I knew everything about acting. But 
the more I acted, and the more I learned from Stella Adler, the more 
I realized I had a lot to learn. I auditioned for the role of Artie Strauss 
in "Compulsion/' for Broadway, but Roddy McDowall got it. I finally 
played the part in winter stock, with the North New Jersey Playhouse, 
in Fort Lee. Playing this role showed me more clearly than ever that I 
had a lot to learn. It's easy for me to fall into a state of inertia. I need 
to be kicked out of it. Progress, after all, comes through conflict. When 
I'd been in New York for about two years, William Inge apparently 
saw me in a couple of the television dramas, including one in which I 
played the part of a student who cheated in high school. Joshua Logan 
must have seen me, too, because in the winter of 1958 he asked me to 
make a screen test for his movie "Parrish." He wanted Vivien Leigh 
and Clark Gable to play my parents in that one, but he couldn't get 
them, so he abandoned the idea of directing the movie. In the mean- 
time, M-G-M had seen my test and called me to the Coast and signed 
me to a contract, and then they shelved the movie they'd had me in 
mind for. I then met Elia Kazan through William Inge, who was out 
there working on his screenplay for "Splendor in the Grass," and who 
wanted me to appear in it. Inge asked me if I'd do his play "A Loss of 
Roses" on Broadway first, and I agreed. The play was a flop, but I got 
good notices. I felt it might have been a much better play if we'd 
had more tryout time with it out of town. As it was, I felt, we were led 
to depend a lot on cliches. The play deserved more. I'd get laughs at 
times when I shouldn't be getting laughs. The play was about a boy 
in trouble, and I didn't think it was funny, but the audience reacted 
as if I were doing boffo scenes. Variety said I was an acceptable 
actor. I respect the opinions of others, but I knew I could do much 

Right after the play closed, I played the leading role in the movie 
"Splendor in the Grass," with Natalie Wood and Pat Hingle, which 
was directed by Elia Kazan. I worked on the picture from May to Au- 
gust of 1960. From that I 'went right into "The Roman Spring of Mrs. 
Stone," with Vivien Leigh, directed by Jose Quintero. We made it be- 



tween November, I960, and February, 1961. Then came "All Fall 
Down," with Brandon de Wilde, Eva Marie Saint, Angela Lansbury, 
and Karl Maiden, and directed by John Frankenheimer. I worked in 
that movie from July to September of 1961. All in all, I got a con- 
centrated education in making movies. I felt terribly frustrated when I 
first saw myself in "Splendor in the Grass" and "The Roman Spring of 
Mrs. Stone." From every indication, I was very successful. I was very 
much in demand; I was getting a lot of publicity; I was on my way 
to becoming what is known as a movie star. But when I saw myself in 
those first two movies, I realized that if I had done the same parts on 
the stage I would have had the opportunity to come back and do them 
again, in a better way, trying to find new meanings in them. In 
the movies, they were recorded in one way for all time. On the 
other hand, I knew I was learning how to combat out-of-sequence 
shooting, how to sustain a performance, and how to come to the set 
prepared, in my own mind, to play it. In acting, I've always tried to 
make the most of whatever I was doing, no matter what. My father 
tells a story about a man who is captured by cannibals in the jungle 
and is about to be boiled. He says to himself, "There is nothing I can 
do about it, so I may as well enjoy it." 



I love the pretending, but I've never been terribly 
happy on the stage. I've never found it easy to act; 
acting to me is agony. 

I was born on February 16, 1898, of American parentage, in Berlin, 
where my father, Dr. Peter C. Cornell, was taking a postgraduate 
course in surgery. I was an only child. At the age of three months, 
I was taken to Buffalo, where my father settled and started to practice 
medicine. He was a martinet. I had a very disciplined childhood. In 
those days, I wanted to be a trained nurse. When I was eight, my 
father gave up medicine to become manager of the Majestic Theatre 
in Buffalo. He booked all kinds of touring attractions there. He died in 
1948, at the age of eighty- three. My mother, who died at forty- three, was 
an amazingly lovely creature and very outgoing. Both my father and 
his father were amateur actors. Grandfather Cornell was a friend 
of John Drew. My mother was frightened of acting. As a child, I was 
gawky and not attractive, and a tomboy. At boarding school the 
Oaksmere School, in Mamaroneck I coached tennis, basketball, and 
drama. I was also the amateur swimming champion of Buffalo. I love 
to swim, and do a lot of it these days at my place on Martha's Vine- 



yard. I first went to the Vineyard with my maternal grandmother, and 
fell in love with it immediately with the sweet smell of fern by the 
sandy road. I adored my grandmother. I always felt I had a completely 
theatrical background. Not that I took to the stage as a child. One of 
the vaudeville acts at my father's theatre was an elephant act, and chil- 
dren were brought out onstage at the end of an elephant act to feed an 
elephant. Once, I was supposed to go on and give the elephant a bun, 
but when the moment came to do it I was afraid. My father said I was 
going to do it, and so I was thrust shrieking onstage holding a bag of 
buns. I threw the buns at the elephant and ran screaming from the 

At boarding school, I had a feeling that I wanted to be a director. 
I wrote plays for the school, designed the sets, and acted in the plays 
as well as directed. Theresa Helburn came to the school to coach the 
cast of "Twelfth Night," in which I played Malvolio, and then she 
coached "Play," which I wrote. After that, I felt I must go on acting. 
When Edward Goodman, the director of the Washington Square 
Players, came to the school to help coach one of my plays, he suggested 
that I try out for the Players. I moved, with my aunt, to New York in 
1917 and lived in Miss Pennybacker's Boarding House, at 15 East 
Thirty-eighth Street. I got along on an inheritance from my mother, 
and earned about forty dollars over a period of two years, play- 
ing bit parts with the Players. The biggest day of my life was when I 
got a one-line part in a Japanese no drama, "Bushido," without pay. I 
played a Japanese mother, and spoke four words "My son, my son." 
I was so nervous I didn't know how to read a part. But I knew the 
stoicism of that woman, and knew I had to say that line without over- 
doing it. I grew with this part and made it something of my own. By 
then, I was talking easily with actors, and I loved them. 

During the summer of 1919, I played small roles in Detroit and Buf- 
falo in a touring stock company owned by Jessie Bonstelle, a friend of 
my family's. Stock is fantastic training for an actor. You have to prepare 
so quickly to do things. You learn a lot of tricks. The difficult side is 
that sometimes a stock actor learns the tricks and is never able to get rid 
of them. I had a pride about what I was doing. Also in 1919, I played 
Jo in "Little Women," in London, in a production Miss Bonstelle put 
on there. I felt I was becoming abler as an actress, but didn't talk to 
anybody about it. I had the feeling for it, the knack and the instinct. In 



1921, I made my Broadway debut in "Nice People," by Rachel 
Crothers. I had met Guthrie McClintic a few years before, while I was 
in stock, and had fallen in love with him. At that time, he had been a 
talent scout for Winthrop Ames and had written opposite my name in 
the program, "Interesting. Monotonous. Watch." We were married in 
1921, and today live a quiet life. I'm a farmer, basically. I love the early 
morning. I usually have breakfast at eight, even when I'm working. I 
have dogs, read a great deal, walk, scrape and refinish wood. Guthrie 
says I'm always either putting paint on or taking it off. I cook mostly 
spaghetti alia marinara. We don't entertain much. After I've finished a 
long tour, like the one with "Dear Liar," Jerome Kilty's adaptation of 
the Shaw-Campbell correspondence sixty-seven cities and twenty- 
seven thousand miles I just want to do nothing. That mood may last 
quite a long while. Guthrie has been a wonderful help to me, has be- 
lieved very much in me. When I work, I love to work with him. As an 
actress, what I've had has been an instinct for being somebody else, just 
as some women have an instinct for doing their own hair. I've never 
had an instinct for doing my own hair, and I have no instinct about 
clothes. But I knew I had the acting instinct. 

My first big part on Broadway was in "A Bill of Divorcement," in 
1921, and then I played the title role in "Candida" in 1924, and in 1925 
I became strongly identified with Michael Arlen's "The Green Hat." 
What you try to do in the theatre is to give a universal picture, through 
your own eyes and feelings, of the person you play. You try to be, in 
your own way, what that person would be. You have a feeling about 
the thing. If you don't feel strongly about a part, or if it doesn't appeal 
to you, it's a mistake to do it. I loved Candida, but when I read what 
Shaw said about Candida I didn't think it was anything like the 
woman I acted. I felt the maternal quality of the woman. The only 
time I met Shaw, he said he wished he'd seen me as Candida and Joan, 
and I told him I didn't think he would have liked the way I played 
them. You have to play a part in your own way. It's always a struggle 
to do it. You have to keep on struggling to get through. Sometimes you 
accomplish it, and sometimes you don't, but you have to keep on trying 
to get through, through, through. There are three ways of doing it, in 
general; you might call them auditory, tactual, and visual. I think I 
do it in a tactual way. I always have in mind a lovely thing Willa 
Gather wrote about art's being "a mould in which to imprison for a 



moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself." It's so won- 
derful when it happens in acting. When it does happen, a bell rings, 
but it's very rare. It happened once when I was playing Elizabeth Bar- 
rett in "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" for the men overseas in the 
Second World War. It's a tiny little thing that happens. You then 
say to yourself, "That was right." Sometimes you can be wrong about 
it, but when it happens it's wonderful, and usually you're not wrong. 
Kirsten Flagstad can do it again and again when she sings. Myra Hess 
can do it when she plays. As an actress, when it happens, I make you 
confident of me as a human being on that stage. I get a wonderful 
sense of accomplishment doing that. In the beginning, I didn't want to 
play Elizabeth Barrett. I thought she was a dreary girl, always lying on 
that couch. Elizabeth Barrett bored me. I had never read any of her 
poetry except "Sonnets from the Portuguese." Guthrie, however, 
thought it was a wonderful part, and read the play aloud to me, and 
then I began reading about the family. I read six books about the Bar- 
retts and Robert Browning, became interested in the father-daughter 
psychology, and ended up fascinated by Elizabeth. 

Sometimes, you read a part over and over, and you get lost in many 
things you think about it. You flounder around, struggling with it. 
Little by little, some line emerges and you've got it. The audience 
never gets half of what you've thought in your mind. Guthrie felt that 
Iris March in "The Green Hat" was not at all in my vein, but I always 
felt I had an understanding of her as a woman. She had a kind of 
burned-up quality about her. Her whole set had that quality, and I 
knew it, even though I didn't know the set had and never belonged to 
it. The play had a seduction scene with Leslie Howard and me. He 
played it beautifully. My husband directed, and at the point where 
Leslie Howard said to me, "Iris, Iris, what do you want?," I replied, 
"You baby" And I turned out the lights. My husband said that 
Howard should turn out the lights and that I should say, 'Tow, baby." 
I said no; I said I had to turn out the lights myself, and I knew it was 
more natural for me to take the comma out and say, "You baby'' To 
me it was an extremely interesting part. She was a disillusioned woman. 
You had to underplay it and distort it so that people wouldn't laugh 
at it. You do what is the right thing for you to do in any kind of acting. 
No two people play the same character in the same way. 

You can emasculate a part with too much thought. I know that some 



of the Method actors are fine actors, but sometimes they do think a 
little too much and I don't understand them. We have a prescribed 
movement on the stage, and what you do must not interfere with some- 
body else. You have an obligation to your fellow-actors. Some of these 
Method youngsters are a deadly bore. It's so exhausting to play with 
these people who have to talk to their analysts all the time and then 
come back and tell you what the character is all about. One never knows 
where they're going to be on the stage. You can't be willful on the 
stage. You can't be arbitrary. You have to belong to the team. But there 
are good ones among them, and some are among the best we have. 
And the art goes around and around, and actors do have to explore. 
It gets harder to act as you go on. There's more responsibility, not less. 
You can't ride along on anything you've had. You must always take a 
part and make it your own. And when you're playing on the stage, 
every night is an opening night for an audience. Often, you try too 
hard. It isn't easy for it to come through. You always try to be fresh. 
I'm still frightened of acting. It's that egotistical thing that makes you 
want to be so good that turns around and frightens you. 

The star thing is utterly indefinable. It's there or it isn't there. 
Sometimes a star isn't a very good actor, but he has that peculiar 
quality that makes him a star. It's almost a chemical thing. I know that 
some great actors have some moments that are so electrifying as to be 
absolutely delirious. I can't say exactly that for myself, but I do 
know that some of my moments have been wonderful for me. I 
worked on preparing "Dear Liar" for five months. It was terrible tor- 
ture, because I couldn't get that woman. The letters didn't give me 
the bitchiness of Mrs. Campbell. When you're not good, you just 
know it. And that is what I call suffering. But I worked on it and 
worked on it, and I thought, I'm going through with it even if I never 
act again. I had to find a way of using those letters to bring out what I 
wanted, and finally I had the feeling that I had done what I wanted. 
I had done the job as far as it was possible for me to do it. I like to do 
a job as well as I can. 



No one but an actor can run the gamut of life's ex- 

I was born on April 22, 1908, in Rock Island, Illinois. My full name is 
Eddie Albert Heimberger, and I'm the eldest of five children. My 
parents were both of German descent. When I was a year old, our 
family moved to Minneapolis, where my father first owned and man- 
aged a couple of small restaurants, then gave them up and went into 
the insurance business. My parents now live in Los Angeles, with my 
brother John, who works as a mechanic for the Lockheed Aircraft Cor- 
poration. My other brother, Frank, works for the telephone company 
in Los Angeles as a circuit-installation supervisor. My sister Margaret 
is secretary to a Hollywood lawyer, and my other sister, Mary, is 
married and runs a ceramic factory in Minneapolis. My father is re- 
tired now, and spends his time painting in water colors. I was brought 
up as a Roman Catholic. I attended St. Stephens, in Minneapolis, and 
then went to Central High School. At the age of six, I started working, 
as a newsboy, and I had my own delivery route by the time I was nine. 
I worked at one job or another soda jerk, usher, theatre manager 



all during my school and college years. I loathed going to school. 
I was always disrupting things. When I was in the second grade, I 
discovered I had the ability to make the other kids in the class 
laugh. One of the nuns would catch me clowning around, making 
jokes, and I would get beaten up. I was a real troublemaker. But I 
loved getting attention from the other kids. Little by little, during 
my childhood, I was singled out for special work in class plays, camp- 
fire shows just the usual small stuff, like playing the Spirit of the 
Castor Oil Bean in brown muslin. In one school play, I was the pig 
that hid in a churn and rolled down the hill to escape the fox. On 
Sundays, I sang soprano in the St. Stephens Church choir. I grew up 
in the twenties. All through those years, I was taught that to be 
a man you had to be a businessman. You had to work. When I was 
in high school, I worked, for thirteen dollars a week, at a soda 
fountain from six in the evening until midnight. I never got to 
sleep before one in the morning. I was a shy kid. Making other 
kids laugh was the easiest way of getting their approval. I played 
the lead in the senior-class play, which was part of our graduation 
ceremonies. It was the part of the Policeman-Prince in "A Kiss 
for Cinderella" by J. M. Barrie. It put me on top of the heap. 
The rewards were immediate and unmistakable: the applause, the 
newspaper notices, the approval. I graduated from high school with 
a bang. I've always envied those people who just go along and don't 
give a damn about who approves and who doesn't. I've always been 
one of the others. 

When I began to plan what I would spend my life at, I thought it 
would be business. Prosperity was at its height then. You couldn't 
pick up a newspaper or magazine that didn't have some big-business 
success story staring you in the face. When I graduated from high 
school, I planned to try the same thing my father was doing selling 
insurance. But first I was going to go to college, and to get the 
money I spent two years working as a salesman for an uncle who had 
a furniture company in Aurora, Illinois. Then I entered the Univer- 
sity of Minnesota and started studying business administration. It was 
fashionable to study business administration at that time before 1929. 
At night, I managed a fourth-run movie theatre. It still showed only 
silents, so I used to entertain between shows, doing magic tricks, 
raffling off dishes and other prizes, and occasionally singing popular 



songs and playing a banjo-ukulele. In my classes, I was always tired. 
I couldn't concentrate. I slept through my classes. My education plans 
began to seem absurd to me. I wasn't really interested in business 
administration. After two years of it, I simply walked off the campus 
in despair one day. For a while, I worked as manager of another 
theatre, but I didn't like it, working from noon to midnight; it just 
didn't seem like a proper businessman's life. Then I went into insur- 
ance selling. For extra money, while I was trying to get going in 
insurance, I joined up with a couple of friends, Herb Nelson and 
Grayce Bradt, and we did some singing over two Minneapolis-St. Paul 
radio stations KSTP and WCCO as a trio. I was a kind of garden- 
variety baritone. We sang stuff like "Sweet and Lovely" and "Happy 
Feet" and "St. Louis Blues." Then Herb and Grayce had an offer 
from station KMOX, in St. Louis, and they asked me to go along. 
Since I wasn't doing very well in insurance, I decided to do it tempo- 
rarily, in order to eat. I had really sold no insurance at all except to my 
father. So, in 1931, I became a radio singer, at a salary of fifty dollars 
a week, which was the same pay the two others got. I stayed in St. 
Louis for eight months. I took some singing lessons, learned something 
about the technique of both singing and dancing, and developed 
a sense of comedy, of timing. But I still hadn't decided to go into 
entertaining as a permanent profession. I lived in a hotel apartment. 
It was a lush time for us, and we were doing extremely well. But I 
was not in an emotional position to enjoy any of it. I was bewildered. 
I was not a happy young man. When I wasn't working, I'd go off 
and take long walks by myself in Forest Park, a lot of the time walk- 
ing in the rain, which in St. Louis is nearly always very warm. 
Eventually, I began to get a feeling for what I was doing. Not only 
were there the immediate rewards of applause and laughs but I was 
being paid, and paid quite well. By the end of the year, I'd fallen 
in love with what I was doing. With the others, I went to Cincinnati, 
and for the next couple of years we sang as a trio there, on station 
WLW. Then the act broke up, because Herb decided to drop out 
and become, of all things, a businessman, managing a radio station 
down South. It was 1933. Grayce and I decided to come to New 
York and try our luck here. Nothing happened for a while, but I 
didn't feel disappointed. I always had the illusion that my next job 
was just coming up. I lived over a speakeasy Caesar's, on West 



Forty-eighth Street in a one-room apartment without electricity. 
I had always read a lot, and I'd read the newspapers by the light 
of the electric sign "William F. La HifFs Tavern" flashing into the 
room from across the street. Sometimes, the chef of the speakeasy 
would give me a handout of cold leftover spaghetti. Every day at noon, 
I'd go to the Leo Feist office, on Broadway, together with a lot of 
other guys some of them would be wearing their tuxedos and 
maybe carrying their horns to get bookings, at three or four dollars 
a night, with pick-up bands in Elks clubs or joints in places like 
Red Bank, New Jersey. I'd sing and play the guitar. Once, I sang 
as the Silver Mask Tenor for the Big Ten Polish Pals Dance, at the 
Grand Paradise Ballroom, in Williamsburg. The silver mask I had to 
wear gave me a splitting headache, but I sang, and also danced with 
the ladies, which I was required to do as part of the job. In those days, 
if it was too late for me to get home, I often slept in a park, or in 
a saloon. I got to meet and talk with more people than I've ever 
been able to since I started making some money. I enjoyed congregat- 
ing with the bums and hoboes. After six months or so in New York, 
Grayce and I got a job, through a song plugger, doing our act on an 
N.B.C. weekly variety show called "Morning Parade/' We got ten 
dollars apiece every week for about fifteen beautiful weeks. That 
led to our getting hired by N.B.C. as a singing team to do a daily 
show called "The Honeymooners Grayce and Eddie." We were on 
every morning at eleven for fifteen minutes, singing duets from our 
repertoire and carrying on running patter in little scenes with our 
neighbors, played by various actors. My income jumped to fifty dollars 
a week. On one broadcast, one of the actors playing a neighbor was 
sick, and a friend- of his, Garson Kanin, played the part. Grayce and 
I paid a man forty dollars to write some special material for our act, 
so we could get into night clubs, but he took the money and gave us 
nothing. We still weren't very sophisticated about it all. 

That summer of 1933, I played in summer stock in Mount Kisco. I 
made my debut on Broadway, on January 8, 1936, in a small part 
in a Zoe Akins play called "O Evening Star/' which closed after five 
performances. In September of that year, I got a call from George 
Abbott, who said that he was going to produce and direct "Brother 
Rat," written by John Monks, Jr., and Fred F. Finklehoffe, and 
that Kanin had suggested me for the leading part of Bing Edwards. 



It was that easy. I was hired at a hundred and fifty dollars a 
week. The play was a huge success. We had a good cast, with 
Jose Ferrer, Ezra Stone, and Frank Albertson. But I was still pretty 
unsophisticated, and I didn't know how to enjoy it. I played in 
"Brother Rat" for four months, and then I went into "Room Service," 
in which I played one of the leads. I was in that for a year. I remained 
bewildered, but not unhappy. Opening nights, though, were sheer 
torture. My wife, who is the actress Margo, maintains that for me 
acting is like boxing a tough contest. She says that I'm Teutonic 
in that way that I feel I must always be sweating and suffering. 
She's Mexican, and the exact opposite of me. Unlike the Teutons, 
the Latins believe in fun, gaiety, the sheer joy of living. Living 
and enjoying life go together for them. Margo and I have a son, 
who was born in 1951, and an adopted daughter, who was born 
in Spain in 1954. We live in Pacific Palisades, in Los Angeles, with 
the Pacific Ocean as an extension of our back yard. Yd give up acting 
in a minute if it ever came to a choice between my family and my 
career, but I don't think I'll ever have -to make that choice. Success is 
a silly kind of goal. Hollywood is full of people who made success 
their goal and were more miserable after achieving it than when they 
were striving for it. 

After I'd played on Broadway for a year and a half, I was offered 
a seven-year standard contract with Warner Brothers, and I took it. 
I repeated my "Brother Rat" role in the movie version. It was a big 
success at the box office, but the studio was greedy. "Brother Rat" 
was a beautifully written script, and the movie was carefully made, 
but because it was a success the studio immediately made a sequel, 
"Brother Rat and a Baby/' to take advantage of the success, and I 
was put in that, too. It didn't have the class of the first movie. I was 
miserable doing it. Then I made two or three other bad movies. I got 
very upset and discouraged. In 1938, Warner Brothers permitted me 
to return to Broadway for eight months to play in the Rodgers and 
Hart musical "The Boys from Syracuse." I played Antipholus, one 
of the twin brothers, and loved it. Then I had to go back to Holly- 
wood. The next year, I bought a boat, a thirty-nine-foot yawl, and 
sailed for Mexico in it, with a crew of five friends. I bummed around 
Lower California and Mexico, and hooked up with a one-ring circus 
in Mexico for a while as a clown and trapeze artist. In 1941, 1 planned 



to go on an expedition to excavate Mayan ruins on the Isthmus of 
Tehuantepec, but the war came along. I wasn't getting much to do 
in movies, so I spent my time wandering around by myself. In 1942, 
I joined the Navy and went to Officer Candidate School for ninety 
days and was commissioned a lieutenant, junior grade. I saw action 
in the South Pacific and in the Central Pacific, at Tarawa and other 
islands. I was discharged on December 4, 1945, as a full lieutenant, 
and the very next day I got married to Margo. We settled down in 
Hollywood, and I made more movies, such as "Rendezvous with 
Annie" and "The Dude Goes West." At the same time, I started 
making educational films at that time a kind of pioneer work. With 
the University of Oregon, I produced "Human Beginnings," a film 
for six-year-olds about having a new baby in the home, to help them 
over their jealousy. It seems to me I've been searching all along for 
things to do that would mean more to me than the commercial 
movies I make, most of which I've made to earn a living. When I 
was making the movie "The Roots of Heaven," in 1958, I flew from 
Central Africa to Lambaren to visit Dr. Albert Schweitzer. I've 
admired his work, and I've tried to help in Meals for Millions, a 
philanthropic project he is interested in that makes high-protein meals 
available to underprivileged peoples at a cost of two or three cents 
a meal. 

In my early years in Hollywood, I was pretty miserable, and I often 
did pretty hysterical things. I was making more money than I had 
ever believed existed. I had made a hundred and fifty dollars a 
week on Broadway, and I jumped from seven hundred and fifty 
dollars to a thousand dollars a week during my second year in Holly- 
wood, and, of course, I threw it all away. Then, I found myself 
questioning my ability to act. I didn't think I was making real 
progress. I was successful, but I wasn't a success as an integrated man. 
I began to question what an actor really was. With enough luck and 
drive, plus intelligence, anybody can become an actor in Hollywood. 
Out there, movies are an industry, not an art. I've made about 
forty Hollywood movies. I've enjoyed about a quarter of them. 
Making a movie requires such a high degree of collaboration. Often, 
I find myself in conflict with the authorities. And the industrial aspect 
of it is always so important. Money is so much in evidence. Like tele- 
vision, the movies are geared to high ratings, 



Acting of any kind is part of the machinery of man's looking at 
himself and evaluating himself in terms of growth. An actor makes 
his interpretive contribution to something that if it's a movie is 
seen by millions of people, both adults and children. For me, that in 
itself makes acting exciting and worth while, provided the movie, or 
whatever it is, has anything to recommend it. In Africa, while we 
were working on "The Roots of Heaven/' the temperature reached a 
hundred and forty degrees and members of the company were getting 
sick all over the place, but I loved the excitement of it. When I 
worked on the role of the photographer in "Roman Holiday," I 
always found something new, something stimulating, some new 
detail of my part that I could study. The drawbacks, of course, are 
always there. An actor has to worry about so many things that have 
nothing to do with his acting like whether his agent is a good 
agent or a bad agent, or whether to have an agent or not. When I was 
a kid, I used to pray, "Please, God, make my life interesting." I think 
He did, by making me an actor. All sorts of roles, whether they 
were happy or tragic, have given me satisfaction. When I'm playing 
an unhappy role, the director usually tells me to stay concentrated 
on ft not to laugh it up on the outside but to make myself feel 
lousy. That's all right with me. It's all part of life. To avoid pain in 
life is never to know the joy of life. When you play a part, you're be- 
ing yourself in some ways. In "Brother Rat," I played the shy-athlete 
type of fellow, a baseball-playing student. I was new to acting then, 
and mostly I just memorized the role. Many people who are not very 
good actors get parts that are so right for them that they make 
them look like terrific actors, and that's what happened to me in 
"Brother Rat." All I did onstage was wander around and say the 
lines I had memorized. In that part, I was an uninteresting, un- 
imaginative, and unresourceful actor, but my appearance was right. 
In "The Boys from Syracuse," I sang the songs well and I wore the 
tights well; I had boyish charm and good legs. If you have the 
proper voice and a good body, it helps a lot, especially when you're 
starting. I was able to do much more when I had ten or eleven 
years' experience, and when I played good parts in good movies and 
worked with good directors. For example, I was able to do quite a lot 
as the salesman in "Carrie," produced and directed by William Wyler. 
I had worked as a salesman myself. I knew the manners of salesmen, 



the facades they built up, their way of dressing. Before I played the 
part, I read Vernon Lewis Parrington's "Main Currents in American 
Thought" and then spent months studying the author, Theodore 
Dreiser everything he had written. I wanted to know everything 
Dreiser had ever said about salesmen in any of his writings. I learned 
that Charles Drouet, the "Carrie" salesman, wore topaz cufflinks, I 
learned how he selected his ties, and I learned his manner of talking, 
his brave, hearty way of commanding attention, the forceful personal- 
ity he developed as the facade he needed for selling. I deliberately 
avoided the stereotype of a salesman. I knew that the loud, cigar- 
smoking cliche salesman wouldn't go over with audiences, because 
they usually know what a salesman is really like. Actually, a salesman 
can sometimes command attention by standing still in a room. I knew 
if I played him truthfully, the way I understood him to be, it would 
have a strong impact on the audience, and it did. I think I was 
also able to do a lot in the movie "Attack!," released in 1956, when 
I played a villain an Army captain who is a coward and who gets 
drunk and sends his men out to be killed without good reason, and 
then is shot and killed by one of his own men. I started out, for this 
part, with a belief that there are no villains. A villain may be an 
honest, sincere man who is his own victim. The captain I played in 
"Attack!" was a highly neurotic man, the victim of an authoritarian 
father, and was unable to act on his own initiative. I tried to make 
him a well-meaning, unstable person, a man who had been at the top of 
the academic list at military school but who was incapable of taking 
any real responsibility in battle. To ease himself over his own suffer- 
ing, he drank. He refused to send help to the men he had sent out 
to die, and rationalized his decision by telling himself that the men 
would die anyway. I felt miserable in this role. I was supposed to. 
I kept myself simmering with drunken terror throughout the role. 
Away from the movie set, I worked on the role with the actress 
Stella Adler, a wonderful teacher, who has an incisive, brilliant way 
of getting to the heart of a character and to the heart of a script. 
She taught me to design scenes in accordance with the chemistry of 
the thing. She shows you how to get at what Stanislavski calls "sense- 
memory." I have no trouble being miserable for a part I have so 
much to draw on. 

The more characters I played, the greater my thirst became to 



enjoy all the facets of life as they have been experienced by all kinds 
of people. I don't mean I can really feel everything that the character 
I play feels. I can show what it's like to be an officer or a doctor, or 
I can go back in time to the twelfth century and get a little of the 
feeling of what it was like to live in those times just enough of the 
feeling to enlighten and satisfy me. In a Western movie/ 1 learn how to 
ride a horse, and I get to know something of what it was like to live 
in the open spaces in, say, 1870. Or in a boxing picture I get in the 
ring with the fighters and throw some punches with them, listen to 
their speech, find out something about their hopes and their terrors. 
An actor gets a taste of all this. A taste is often all that you want. To 
know deeply what an actual fighter feels and fears is not for me. 
Every man is a part of every other man. An actor, similarly, is a part 
of every role he plays, and every role becomes a part of him. 



You must believe you are the person you play. Be- 
lieve in it that is the secret. 

I was bora on April 19, 1891, at nine o'clock in the morning, in Paris, 
near the Place Pigalle. My mother, Marie-Therese Chauvin, was an 
actress, whose professional name was simply Sylviac; my father, Count 
Gilbert Bandy de Naleche, was an Army officer. My parents, both of 
whom died in 1948 my father at eighty-five, my mother at eighty- 
four separated when I was about three, and I was their only child. 
I have a half brother, Henri, of my father's first marriage. As a child, 
I never had a home life. We lived in a huge apartment, where I was 
very lonely. It was there, one might say, that I started acting. At the 
age of four, with the servants as my audience, I made up little plays 
pretending to be a farmer, pretending to be a lion tamer, putting pots 
and pans on my head. Mother would find the pots and pans out 
of place, and she did not like it. My mother was very intelligent, 
very clever, with great wit, but she was not very motherly. Al- 
though she was an extremely good actress, she never became 
really famous, because she was always flitting from one thing to 
another. She did her best work with a great actor and producer 



named Andre Antoine. I loved to watch her act. When I was five, 
she took me to Russia, where she played in the Theatre Michel, 
a theatre in St. Petersburg that belonged to the Russian govern- 
ment and in which plays were given in French for Czar Nicholas 
II and the Russian nobility. I do not know why, but the memory from 
that visit which has stayed with me most clearly is the way the poor 
people drank tea. They would hang a small piece of rock sugar on a 
string from the ceiling and swing it from one person to another, and 
each person would dip the sugar in his cup or take it right in his 
mouth. I found that ravishing and very painful at the same time. 

When I was eight years old, my mother sent me to a boarding 
school. From then on, it seemed I was always away at school. At 
thirteen, I was sent to England and attended Norland Holmes, in 
Hove, near Brighton. I was to be there for only two months but I wrote 
and asked my mother if I could stay a year, and she permitted me to 
stay, so I learned English. Then I went to school in Germany, and I 
learned to speak German. I also attended the Lycee de Versailles. I 
went from one school to another, and didn't get a degree from any. 
My mother's ideas were always changing. When I was sixteen, I wanted 
to sing. I was a soprano, and loved music. I had started to take piano 
lessons when I was five, and had learned to play quite well. But when 
I told Mother I wanted to sing, she said, "You are going to act. You 
are going to work.'* There was no discussing anything with her. 
Mother said she would teach me acting, and she did teach me for three 
or four months. Then I was ready to start acting in the small theatres 
in Paris. My mother was still acting, of course, so I wanted a stage name 
of my own. A playwright named Maurice Donnay, who served as my 
godfather for the stage, gave me advice about taking a name; he sug- 
gested I take Francine Rozay, the name of a character in his play 
"Amants." But I liked my real first name, Fran^oise, better than 
Francine, and I liked the spelling "Rosay," so I became Fran^oise 
Rosay. My first part was in one of the earliest plays of Sacha Guitry. I 
got paid nothing the first week, which was a trial period. Then I re- 
ceived thirty-five francs a week my first real job. I was playing in a 
small theatre near the house where I was born. Mother came to see me 
on the opening night. I had the part of a young lady, and I was wear- 
ing a long dress for the first time. I could see Mother in the first row, 
looking at me reproachfully, and I wondered why. Only later did I 



learn that I had been so nervous that I kept tugging at my skirt and 
pulling it above my knees something that was not done in those days. 
After a short while, I passed the entrance examination for the 
Conservatoire National de Musique et Declamation, where I studied 
with Paul Mounet, a well-known actor with the Comdie Fran^aise. 
I studied acting there for three years, meanwhile continuing to play 
in the small Paris theatres the Theatre Moncey, the Theatre Mont- 
martre, the Theatre National de 1'Odeon, and so on. I played all kinds 
of small parts in the classics by Moliere and Racine as well as in 
modern dramas of the day. During my last two years at the Conser- 
vatoire and during the years immediately following, I worked at the 
Odeon with M. Antoine, the director who had worked with my 
mother. Antoine was a sort of Stanislavski of his time. He engaged 
you on the understanding that you would learn everything. You 
had to do old people, young people, small parts, big parts, classic 
parts, modern parts, comic parts, tragic parts everything. At the age 
of twenty-one, I went to St. Petersburg to play in the very theatre 
my mother had played in when I was a small child. I was there for 
six months. Our company played something new every week 
twenty-six plays for the season. The nobility liked to see all the 
new successes from Paris, so we did many modern plays that were 
hits in Paris, in addition to the classics. We gave several special 
performances of Moliere for an imperial school for the daughters of 
Army officers, and all the little girls came to see us. When I went to 
Russia, I was timid. I was frightened. I took my little dog along with 
me from Paris a Brussels griffon, the dog that looks like a monkey, 
which was the fashion then. St. Petersburg was so cold that when 
people spat outdoors, they spat ice. Everything was wet and gray 
and overcast. The city was sad, I thought. The architecture seemed to 
me to be more German than Russian. I did not like St. Petersburg. 
I remembered that it had been just the same when I was there 
at the age of five with my mother. People in St. Petersburg were 
either very rich or very poor. I used to see a concierge trying to sleep 
on a wooden bench outdoors; his job was to open the door for 
people, all night long with the temperature fifteen below zero. I was 
shocked. In the large houses, when I gave food to my little dog the serv- 
ants would watch, and would grab the scraps of food that the dog left. 
It was not normal in those days to observe all that and to care about it 



and feel hurt by it, but I did feel hurt by it. Today, too, I do not like to 
be in places where I see a great deal of poverty. For example, I do not 
like Rio de Janeiro, where you see enormous fortunes and terrible deg- 
radation and nothing in between. I am not happy in Spain, where one 
eats in a restaurant and looks through the window and sees people 
starving. When 1 was in Russia, I took a trip to Moscow as soon as I got 
the chance. Moscow I liked much better than St. Petersburg. It was the 
Russian city par excellence. It had a character of its own. There it was 
wonderful. In Moscow, one could see the sky, and one could see all 
the beautiful, golden churches, with their spires reaching into the sky. 

When I returned to Paris from Russia, I had enough money saved 
up to move out of my mother's apartment and into an apartment of 
my own, at 195 Rue de FUniversite. It was on the Seine, near the Eiffel 
Tower, and when I took it there was nothing there no Metro or 
anything and the people of Paris thought that it was the provinces. 
It was on the fifth floor of an apartment house built around 1880. 
There was no lift and no electricity and no private bathroom. How- 
ever, it had a beautiful view one could see the Palais de Chaillot and 
Montmartre from the windows, and one could see the sky and 
the trees so I took it. Soon after that, I began, at last, to take voice 
lessons, and then I returned to the Conservatoire and entered the de- 
partment for the study of opera singing. I studied very hard, and 
won the first prize for singing and acting, and eventually I was en- 
gaged to sing at the Paris Opera, where I appeared in "Castor et 
Pollux/' "Thais," and other operas. But then I became ill for some 
time and was unable to continue. The voice goes when health goes. 
Before that happened, however, my singing took me to Lyon, where 
I was engaged to play the leading role in Goethe's "Egmont" a part 
that required an actress who could sing two songs by Beethoven. And 
there, in Lyon, I met Jacques Feyder, the man who became my hus- 
band. He was playing a small part in the play. I still have the affiche 
for that play. We were married in 1917, and he came to live in my 
apartment on Rue de FUniversite. Our children, three sons, were all 
born there. 

Right after we were married, my husband became a film director. 
He fell in love with films when they were just beginning. I was not 
considered photogenic in those days, and did not play in films until 
the talkies arrived, in the late nineteen-twenties. In 1929, my husband 



was invited to Hollywood to direct Greta Garbo in "The Kiss," and I 
went with him. We were filled with enthusiasm and excitement. And 
voila! My husband's producer, a man named Al Lewin, suggested, 
when he saw me reading the script, that I play in a movie based on the 
Molnar play "Olympia." We stayed in Hollywood, and I went on to 
appear in twelve other movies, including "The One Woman," "The 
Trial of Mary Dugan," and "Jenny Lind." We returned to France in 
1931. With my husband, I made more movies "Le Grand Jeu," 
"Pension Mimosas," "Les Gens du Voyage," and "La Kermesse 
Heroique." With Julien Duvivier, I made "Un Garnet de Bal," and 
with Marcel Carne I made "Jenny" and "Drole de Drame." I also made 
movies after the Second World War: in England, "Quartet," among 
others; in the United States, "September Affair" and "The Scarlet 
Pen;" in Italy, "Femmes Sans Nom" and "Sur le Pont des Soupirs;" 
in Spain, "La Princesse Eboli." And in the fifties, in France, I 
made "L'Auberge Rouge," "Le Long des Trottoirs," "Le Joueur," and 
"Du Rififi Chez les Femmes." In 1960, I made "Les Bois des Amants," 
and in 1961, "Le Cave Se Rebiffe." Of all the directors I have worked 
with, none has been better for me than my husband. I trusted his 
direction completely. It was always right for me. He loved his work and 
lived for it, and all the films I made with him I enjoyed. 

The Second World War separated me from my husband and my 
sons. But many other sad and terrible things happened before 
that. In the early years of the war, my husband and I would 
stand by our windows and watch the Nazi planes flying past. 
I felt sorry for the German people, but I despised the Nazis. Then 
a certain Frenchman, a traitor, using the false French name 
Ferdonnet, made a number of broadcasts from Germany, speaking 
against France, ancf this enraged me. I decided, because I was known 
in Germany through my films, that I would answer him on radio 
broadcasts addressed to Germany, and would speak under my own 
name. I made five radio talks, and was the first person in France to do 
that to speak on the radio to the Germans and use one's own name. I 
never spoke against Germany; I spoke against the Nazis and what 
they represented to us. I would begin by saying, "I am Fran^oise Rosay, 
the mother of three sons." I spoke against the things the Nazis did, and 
pitied the German mothers for what would eventually happen to 
them. I received many letters from Germany. They pretended to say 



things against me, but when I looked under the stamp on the en- 
velope I would find the real message: "Go on, go on with what you are 
doing/' Finally, I was condemned to death, in absentia, by the Nazis. 
When they began to come near Paris, I went to the South of France, 
where I acted in sketches written by my husband that were inspired by 
Ruth Draper's sketches. When France fell, I went to Tunis. After about 
a week, the Nazis arrived there, and I had to escape again. I made my 
way through a kind of no man's land until I reached some French 
troops, who arranged for me to be flown to Algiers in an English plane. 
I settled down in Algiers, and appeared in plays there. Meanwhile, 
my husband and my sons escaped from France to Switzerland. When 
the Allies recaptured Tunis, I went back there, and soon I was flown 
out again, this time to England, where, separated from my family, I 
remained until the end of the war. 

My husband died in 1948, and today I still live in my old apartment, 
with my old furniture, and with recollections. All three of our sons 
now work in the cinema. Marc Frederix, who has kept my husband's 
real surname, is an art director; Paul Feyder, who took my husband's 
working surname, is a first assistant film director; and Bernard Farrel, 
who chose a name of his own, is an assistant film director, too, and a 
television director as well. When I am with my children, who know 
more about the cinema today than I do, I listen; with my grand- 
children I have two I talk un pen. I now divide my time between 
films and the stage. In 1961, I acted in Sam Spewack's play "Once 
There Was a Russian" on Broadway, but it closed after one per- 
formance. It was my first time in a play in New York. I found it 
interesting. In 1962, I played the part of a hundred-year-old woman 
in Michael Redgrave's adaptation of Henry James's "The Aspern 
Papers/' again on Broadway, and this time the play did better. It 
was the first time I had ever played a woman a hundred years 
old, and that, also, was interesting. I have enjoyed my experience of 
acting in New York. I like the audiences here, and if I wish, I can 
take Metrecal a wonderful invention. When I want to see what is 
going on at home, I can go to the Librairie Fran^aise and buy Le 
Figaro, France-Soir, and Le Figaro Litteraire. Whatever country you 
act in, you always have to prove that you are a real pro. In our 
metier, we must always remember that each time we have to begin 
all over again. When you arrive in a new country, the theatre people 



look at you; when they see you work; they decide. When I hear people 
say, "She is a real pro/* then I know it is all right. To be a real pro 
is to know your business. But there is more to acting than just that. 
You must have your own personality, and not copy anybody. In 
France today, we have too many Bardots. We have big Bardots and 
small Bardots, fat Bardots and thin Bardots and they all pout. But 
still there is only one Bardot. She has something of her own. She was 
born Bardot. 

In our metier, when you are just beginning, people are very severe 
with you. Then, if you have a certain success, you are alone. Either 
people are too friendly or they say you are bad; it is all very difficult. 
Yet it is a wonderful metier. In "L'Homme Get Inconnu," Alexis 
Carrel said that everyone is born with seven personalities but that, 
only one of these personalities will emerge in a lifetime which one 
being determined by such circumstances as whether one is born rich 
or poor, in this place or that. What is wonderful about our metier 
is that you can show all seven personalities. When I have done 
a certain kind of part once, I like to change to another kind of 
part. Whatever one I play, I try to become the person. That is, I 
become the part in my thinking. I believe in the part, even if I 
play a tart or a murderer or a woman a hundred years old. In the 
theatre, I like all the work onstage, and I also like the rehearsals. 
But I do not like the effect that the audience has on the acting. 
You wait for them to laugh, you wait for them to cry, instead of con- 
centrating all your attention on the acting itself. It is like being a 
painter and waiting for the people to come and tell you they like this 
color or that, dislike this one or that. And, en passant, I will say that 
I do not like to bow. Altogether, acting in films is much better. You do 
not wait for the public to react. And the day after you do a scene you 
can study the film and see what you did wrong, so that you can cor- 
rect your errors as you go along. Whereas on the stage you do a whole 
performance and then there you are it is gone, beyond repair. 

Whether for the stage or the films, acting ability is a gift. It has noth- 
ing to do with intelligence. I have known one or two great actors who 
were perfectly stupid and yet looked very intelligent on the stage. For 
the stage, of course, an actor has to have the vocal power and has to 
articulate; he has to make himself heard and understood. But for any 
kind of acting you have to observe a lot, and read a lot. And you need 



great discipline. These, days, of course, acting is not always a career. A 
beautiful young girl can become a star for four or five years without 
really becoming an actress; she can be enchanting just by being her- 
self. But she does not necessarily think about following a profession. 
They take a chance, these girls, and if they are lucky they become 
rich and known. After a few years, they may not go on with their 
careers. In former days, when a girl thought of becoming an actress, 
she never thought of making millions or becoming known. She wanted 
to make a career. Now, because the cinema needs many new faces, a 
girl may think only a few years ahead and may earn in a few years 
what an actress used to earn in thirty. When I was starting out and said 
I wanted to be an actress, it was as one might say, "I want to be 
a lawyer/' or "I want to be a scientist." Acting was a metier. I would 
be a young actress, I would be a middle-aged actress, I would be an 
old actress, and I would die. Acting was a lifework. 



What I like is to play a character like me. I don't care 
for it too much when I have to get away from myself. 

I was born on June 1, 1926, in Mount Airy, North Carolina an 
only child. My parents, Carl and Geneva Griffith, still live there. 
My daddy worked in a furniture factory, first running a handsaw 
and then being a machine-room foreman, and now he's retired. I was a 
little old white-headed boy, and the other kids made fun of my 
blond hair. And they teased me about a birthmark on the back of 
my head. My mother told me she had seen a strawberry patch just 
before I was born, and she always called the mark my strawberry 
patch. We lived in a little old wooden house. We had an old Majestic 
radio, which provided our only entertainment, and which gave us 
much joy. We heard good country music over the radio. I was raised 
a Baptist, and most of my early social life revolved around the church. 
Later on, I joined the Baptist Young People's Union and did my 
early courting there. I started entertaining when I was in the third 
grade at the Rockford Street Grammar School, in Mount Airy. I sang 
two choruses of "Put On Your Old Gray Bonnet." The other kids 
laughed at the way I sang it and called me 'Tandy Andy" and "Andy 



Gump," from the funnies. Everybody listened to "Amos 'n' Andy" 
over the radio in those days, and the kids were always yelling to 
me, "Hey, Andy! Where's Amos?" Kids do that. All it did was make 
me mad. 

I started going to revival meetings as soon as I could walk. The 
first show I ever saw was when I was five and my daddy and mother 
took me to Winston-Salem, about thirty-five miles away, to see a road- 
company production of "Carmen." All that clapping and clanging 
and carrying on! I sure did enjoy it. At the age of eleven, I played a 
farmer in a Christmas play about religion put on at the Second Bap- 
tist Church in Mount Airy. When I was fourteen or fifteen, I got 
attracted to swing music, and about that time I went to see a movie 
called "Birth of the Blues," with Bing Crosby and Mary Martin. 
In it, there was a man playing a trombone. I had been asking for a 
musical instrument of some kind, but my daddy couldn't afford it. 
He fed me and clothed me, but he couldn't stretch his pay far 
enough to buy me a musical instrument. My daddy worked hard. The 
people in that part of the country mostly worked for the furniture 
factory. They were very proud, and so was my daddy, so I couldn't 
borrow from anyone for a trombone, which was the kind of instru- 
ment I wanted after seeing that movie. I was in the Mount Airy 
High School by then, and I got myself a job with the N.Y.A. sweep- 
ing out the school after classes. I started making monthly payments of 
six dollars on a thirty-three-dollar trombone I had seen advertised in 
the Spiegel mail-order catalogue. It took me five and a half months, 
but then I got this trombone, and I was the happiest boy in all North 
Carolina. It was a tenor trombone silver-plated. Then I started 
looking around for someone to teach me how to play it. Just about 
that time, a new minister, a man named Ed Mickey, came to our 
town for the Moravian Church, which had a band made up entirely 
of brass instruments. Many Moravian preachers going back to 
Germanic custom know how to play in a band and how to lead 
one. Ed Mickey began to make the whole town ring with beautiful 
music. So I took my trombone to him, and he said he would teach 
me how to play it. For three years, he gave me a free lesson once a 
week. Ed Mickey taught me to sing and to read music and to play 
every brass instrument there was in the band, and the guitar and 
the banjo besides. I was best at playing the E-flat alto horn. 



When I was sixteen, I joined the church, together with my mother 
and daddy. We had been Baptists, but it was all Protestant anyhow, 
so it didn't make any difference. I was very happy with the Moravians. 
All the other band members accepted me. They didn't ever make fun 
of me. When Ed Mickey had a call to serve another Moravian church, 
somewhere else in the state, I became the leader of the band until 
the church could bring in a new preacher. A lot of the people used 
to point to me and say, "There's our next preacher.'* I was beginning 
to get that idea myself. The preacher was the cultural leader of the 
whole town. When I was a sophomore in high school, our class 
put on a show fashioned after the Major Bowes "Amateur Hour" 
on radio. We called our show "Major Knows," and I was Major 
Knows. Occasionally, I said something I hoped was funny, and a big 
roar of laughter came at me, and I began to feel great pleasure. It 
was the first time I'd realized it could please me to be laughed at. 
I had a teacher Miss Haymore, who taught English and Latin and 
had our home room who was the kind they used to make movies 
about. She was the one who selected me to be Major Knows, and she 
encouraged me to go all out for music, if that was what I wanted. She 
got me to understand that I was really doing something pleasurable 
not only for other people but for myself by getting them to laugh. 

After the Major Knows experience, I relaxed and became an A 
student. In the summer of 1944, I entered the University of North 
Carolina, in Chapel Hill. I started out studying for the ministry. I 
took courses in sociology, and I hated them. I took Latin and Greek, 
too, and I found the classes long and dull. I missed my music. So I 
went to Bishop Pfhol, who was the Bishop of the Southern Province 
of the Moravian Church, and told him how I felt. I asked him if I 
could get permission to specialize in music, which he granted. I 
started playing the E-flat bass sousaphone in the college band and 
singing in the glee club, and I got to fooling around in the Drama 
Department. They had a group called the Carolina Playmakers, which 
put on an operetta once a year usually Gilbert and Sullivan. I au- 
ditioned just to get into the chorus, if I could, and was lucky enough 
to get the role of Don Alhanibra del Bolero, the Grand Inquisitor, 
in "The Gondoliers." When the review of the show came out in the 
school paper, my performance was referred to as the best. From that 
point on, I was in every musical show they produced. I began to think 



I might be an opera singer, and decided to drop studying for the 

I met my wife, Barbara Edwards, in the Carolina Playmakers. She 
was a music major, and was an accomplished singer and actress. We 
graduated together in June, 1949, and that August we were married. 
Today, we have two small children, Sam and Dixie, and we have 
a home on Roanoke Island some three hundred miles from Mount 
Airy with fifty-five acres of land, which we bought in 1956. None 
of us in the theatre can make any permanent plans, but someday soon 
I would like to move back to Roanoke Island for good. I'd like to farm 
our land, if I can, and set up a tree nursery for holly and cedar. Most 
entertainers have something they feel strongly about, and I feel 
strongly about North Carolina. It's the greatest place in the world 
for freedom of the mind and freedom of the spirit. You have to see 
it and experience it to know what I am talking about. I'd like to see 
our children grow up in North Carolina, on Roanoke Island. For 
a boy, it's the finest place in the world. There's oystering in the win- 
ter, fishing in the spring, summer, and fall, and hunting in the fall 
and winter. You can get in a boat and go all around Roanoke Island. 
You can go to Roanoke Sound, Pamlico Sound, Croatan Sound, and 
Currituck Sound, to mention just a few. Or you can go out in the 
woods and walk. 

While I was in college, I didn't have any notion of how I was 
going to become a professional entertainer. All I knew was that I 
wanted to get up there and perform. I spent my summer vacations 
working at the furniture factory in Mount Airy. It's always been 
typical of the Southern states to stage historical pageants. I made my 
stage debut in one "The Lost Colony," by Paul Green. It's still 
put on every year on Roanoke Island, in a place called Manteo, 
which is the site of the first English settlement in North America. 
The pageant is based on the story of Sir Walter Raleigh. For 
three seasons, I played Sir Walter Raleigh at night, after work in 
the factory. In my last school vacation, I worked out a combina- 
tion monologue and comedy routine for a variety show with others 
from "The Lost Colony," and appeared professionally at the Nags 
Head Beach Club, about nine miles from Roanoke Island. In a 
duet with a girl, I sang "It Ain't Necessarily So',' and then I did a 
preacher act, in which I sang a song called "The Preacher and the 


Bear." Then, when I wanted to get married, I realized I had no 
visible means of support, so I took a job as the music teacher at 
the Goldsboro High School, in the western part of North Carolina. 
I taught for three years, through the spring of 1952. I wasn't talented 
at teaching. I couldn't handle the kids. I wasn't a good teacher. It 
wasn't that I didn't want to be a good teacher, it was that I couldn't 
do it. I didn't enjoy it. I could very well be there today, not enjoying 
it, but I've been fortunate. I discovered that entertaining and making 
people laugh was something that I could do. Also, I enjoyed it. 
There's no point in doing a thing if you don't enjoy it. When you 
find you can do something, it's wonderful. It's like the way my daddy 
made furniture the way he'd know how to make sample chairs to 
look at and show and later make thousands of copies of. My daddy 
was able to look at that wood and that piece of paper with the plan 
diagrammed on it and figure out the way to make the seat of that 
chair, the back of it, the legs, and all, and make all the pieces fit to- 
gether. It was something he could do, something he learned over the 
years that can't be described. I'm not in the entertainment business 
to make money. I've never particularly cared one way or the other 
about that. I came from a poor background. I was happy as a child. 
I was happy as a teen-ager. I was happy as a young adult. I never 
had capital, but I was never unhappy because of that. When I dis- 
covered I could entertain, I worked hard at it. It's the only thing I 
do well. I can't be a company director, I can't be an accountant, I 
can't make furniture, but I can entertain. 

While I was teaching high school, my wife was the musical director 
at the Methodist and Episcopal churches in Goldsboro. In the 
spring of 1952, we were both studying singing with a teacher 
named Katherine Warren, in Goldsboro, when a publicity man who 
was a friend of hers stopped to see her on his way to New York. He 
offered us a ride to New York in his car and suggested that he set up 
an audition for us at the Paper Mill Playhouse, in Millburn, New 
Jersey. We jumped at the chance. That was our first visit to New York. 
We stayed at the Statler Hotel for a week, and went around to night 
clubs to watch other performers, and got scared to death by the city 
a large, overpowering, frightening thing. At the audition, we lined 
up with over two hundred other people. Barbara sang "In the Still 
of the Night," and I sang "Dancing in the Dark." We were turned 



down. Someone standing around there told me my voice was overly 
brilliant almost unpleasantly so. I didn't mind so much. In my own 
heart, I believed it. So I decided to quit singing and start telling 
jokes. When our week in New York was up, we went back to North 
Carolina, by bus. I wanted to go to Florida and look around for 
something to do in Miami, but Barbara talked me out of it. She 
said we'd starve to death. So that fall I took out three hundred 
dollars in teachers' retirement pay that I had accumulated, and we 
borrowed a thousand dollars, and we bought a used station wagon. 
We rented a house in Chapel Hill, seventy-five miles from Goldsboro, 
and then wrote a brochure about ourselves, describing a song-and- 
comedy act, and got it printed up. We got lists from civic organiza- 
tions of every convention or dinner that was planned in the State 
of North Carolina for the next six months. We figured that at least 
one out of every hundred would have need of entertainment. Pretty 
soon, job offers began to trickle in. We got into our station wagon 
and travelled to each and every job. Our usual fee for our act was 
sixty dollars. Barbara sang Puccini arias and popular standards. I 
played the guitar while she did interpretive dances. And I delivered a 
monologue I'd made up, called "What It Was Was Football." It 
went over in a big way. There were some civic clubs, and so on, that 
asked us back for a second appearance. At one luncheon show, 
after I had done "What It Was Was Football/' a representative 
of Capitol Records came up to me and said he wanted me to record 
the monologue for his record company, which I did. We had been 
paying eighty-five dollars a month in rent for our house, which we 
hadn't been able to furnish very lavishly, and we had a student 
boarder who paid us twenty-five dollars a month. Our record started 
selling all over North Carolina, and then all over the United States, 
and we began to make enough money to furnish our house and pay 
off our debts. 

We moved to New York four days before New Year's of 1954, with 
the intention of trying to get work to do in night clubs. Capitol 
was paying me a salary of about a hundred dollars a week to live 
on. We lived at the Park Sheraton Hotel, and then we sublet an 
apartment in Kew Gardens, Queens. My first big, important profes- 
sional appearance was on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town" in 
1954. 1 felt numb and was scared to death. I was too frightened to do 



my football monologue the way I was supposed to do it. I was too 
nervous. It came out amateurish. I couldn't time it out properly. To 
this day, I can't actually remember doing it at all. But I knew it was 
a failure. My second professional job was at the Blue AngeL I felt like 
a failure there, too. In a night club, people are eating and talking 
and moving around. To control them and command them to pay 
attention to you and enjoy it is the hardest job in the world. I did 
"What It Was Was Football" and other monologues that I wrote, in- 
cluding "Conversation with a Mule" and a couple on "Hamlet" and 
"Carmen." The night after I closed, Burl Ives opened there. I 
went to the opening. What I saw was a master at work. Your eyes 
reflect what you feel. My eyes had reflected fear. The eyes of Burl Ives 
reflected what he was doing and singing. He sang some of the songs 
that were my own favorites. He even had a community sing in that 
supper club everybody singing "GohY down the Road Feelin' 
Bad." I learned a very important lesson from that experience, and 
that was how to draw and hold your audience, and that a person with 
something to say has to get the attention to be heard saying what he 
has to say. After that, I continued with my own monologues and put 
songs back into my act and went out on the road for two years, working 
night clubs in the South and Southwest. I learned how to entertain. I 
would stand there and look at the audience and expect it to look back. 
I'm always very, very aware of the audience and what the audience is 
doing and feeling. 

In 1955, I was cast in the leading role, Will Stockdale, in the 
dramatization of "No Time for Sergeants," by Ira Levin, on Broad- 
way. That was my first big chance. I had read the book "No Time for 
Sergeants," because I'd met the author, Mac Hyman, while I was travel- 
ling in the South. I auditioned first for the television presentation of 
the play, on "The U.S. Steel Hour" in March, 1955. 1 did my "Hamlet" 
monologue for the audition and read for the part and walked right out 
with it. After I had appeared in "No Time for Sergeants" for almost 
the entire run of three hundred and forty-five performances, Elia 
Kazan put me in the movie "A Face in the Crowd." When I showed 
up to work on that movie, it was the first time in my life that I had 
seen a motion-picture camera. I was petrified on that first day of 
work. The motion-picture camera is a fantastic instrument. It can 
record something happening at the moment and it will be there, 



recorded on film, forever. I worked with some pretty outstanding 
people in that movie some pretty fine men and women. Two of 
them were Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau, who were the first 
professional actors I ever got to know well. Making that movie 
was three months out of my life I wouldn't swap for anything. That 
was the first time I was called upon to play a serious dramatic part. It 
was the part of a guitar player, a down-and-outer who achieves fame 
and sudden acclaim. The reviews of that movie in New York were 
five good and two bad. I learned all I know about acting in making 
that one movie with Kazan. Now, Kazan knows people; he under- 
stands them and knows how to get the best from them. In a movie, 
or onstage in a play, you talk to the other actors, and you would 
think that's the most natural thing in the world to do. As a way 
of saying something, it turned out to be the most difficult thing 
in the world to do. I could sing along with other folks, or listen 
to other folks, or enjoy country music or popular songs like "Careless 
Love" or the blues, but it didn't necessarily follow that I could act 
or talk naturally with other actors in a play or in a movie. However, 
in "A Face in the Crowd," with Kazan's help, I acted. Most of my 
acting came from Kazan. He has a secret. He knows exactly how 
to keep an actor happy and excited. He treats an actor as though 
he had hunted all over the world to find him. He makes you feel 
like a very important part of what is going on. His attention was on 
me every second. In the very first scene, on a set built just like the 
jail in Piggott, Arkansas, where I was lying on the floor of the jail 
asleep, I was supposed to wake up suddenly, turn around, and be 
like a wild animal. A block of wood was propped under my arm. We 
took the scene first by having someone pull the block away, so that 
I would fall. I did it that way and it was filmed. But I had a question. 
It was in my eyes. Kazan saw it in a second. He called out "Don't move 
the camera!" and he came over to me. I told him it would be more 
natural if someone kicked me. Then I would naturally get mad and 
kick back. We did it that way, and it turned out to be right, and that 
was the shot that was used. We worked that way all through the pic- 
ture. I knew the character I played in that movie; he was a drunk, a 
drifter, and a bum. There wasn't much similarity between him and me 
in my real life, because I lead a very respectable family life. But from 
every little similarity there was, and from every experience I had ever 



had, Kazan knew how to dig out what was needed. He taught me how 
to relate anything I had ever heard or ever read to what I was doing 
at the moment for the movie. I'd go over and tell him, "I had an ex- 
perience once." And he'd say, "Yeah, tell me/' Then he'd listen, and 
say, "Yeah, that's right, that's right/' And I'd transfer that thought to 
what I was then doing. Since my experience in that movie, I've tried 
to do everything I could to make myself feel any part that I was play- 
ing. I'm like a person in back of me, watching me. When I first saw the 
rushes of "A Face in the Crowd," I enjoyed watching myself. If I hadn't 
gone to see the rushes, I wouldn't have known what I was doing. 

In 1959, I went back to Broadway, singing as well as acting in the 
musical "Destry Rides Again." I was in the show for over a year, but I 
didn't develop much as an actor. It was too much like being back in a 
night club. I'm limited as an actor. There are things other actors can do 
that I can't do. Other actors can act in a lot of fine things. I know I 
can't do the conventional serious dramatic acting. I'm not cut out to be 
a dramatic actor. I tried it. I played in "The Male Animal" on "Play- 
house 90" in 1958, and I just couldn't do it. There's no point in 
doing what you don't enjoy, and if you don't do something well you 
can't enjoy it. I have an excellent time now doing my television show, 
called "The Andy Griffith Show." It's a weekly filmed situation 
comedy in which I star as Andy Taylor, the sheriff in a small Southern 
town. Making the television series takes a great deal of concentra- 
tion, and you have to know what you're doing. But I enjoy doing 
the same character every week, and I don't have any difficulty in 
getting into that character at all. When I'm supposed to feel happy 
or angry or humorous, I'm able to make myself feel those things. I 
wouldn't mind playing the same kind of man for the rest of my 
life. I would like to continue to give people some small thing to 
make them laugh. What I would like to do, whenever I act or enter- 
tain, is to say some small truth. No preaching just to have some small 
thing to say that is true. 


There is a powerful drive in any artist to transmit 
something, to give it form. In the actor, it is the urge 
to show moments of human existence in their essenti- 

I was born on January 15, 1926, in Vienna, as Maria Margarethe Anna 
Schell. I am the eldest of four children. My father, Hermann Ferdi- 
nand Schell, is Swiss and a Catholic; my mother is Viennese and a 
Catholic. My father is a fairly successful novelist, playwright, and poet. 
My mother, Margarethe Schell von Noe, is a former actress who now 
runs the acting school of the Conservatory of Arts in Berne. Her 
father was a well-known Viennese psychiatrist named Karl Noe von 
Nordberg. I have two brothers, Carl and Maximilian, and a sister, 
Editha, and all of them are engaged one way or another in acting. 
My parents met and were married when my mother was eighteen and 
a very promising actress, and they lived with Dr. von Nordberg in 
his apartment, in the heart of Vienna, on the top floor of what used to 
be the palace of Maria Theresa. In 1938, to get away from Hitler, my 
father took all the family but me to Zurich. I was placed in the Con- 
vent of St. Odilia in Colmar, Alsace, for a year before joining the 



others in Zurich. Then I attended the Gymnasium in Zurich, but 
quit at the age of fourteen and went to work as a Stijt, or apprentice, 
in a bookdealer's office to learn secretarial routine, including parcel- 
tying. My father wanted me to have something to fall back on in case 
I could not get work as an actress. He has always been a very pure, 
idealistic man, but in this respect he was practical. I have a very sweet 
family. As children, we were brought up to be independent. When 
people asked my brother Max as a child what he wanted to be when he 
grew up, he always said, "Pope." I am religious now in a very private 
way. My father always taught me that you must try to be appealing by 
what you are inside, more than by what you put on from the outside. 
My mother tried to give me acting lessons, but it was impossible. A 
child somehow goes outside for idols. But my mother did give me the 
foundation of my self-discipline. From her I learned that what you 
undertake you must complete to the best of your ability. When I was 
eight, my parents took me to a hospital, where my grandmother was 
lying ill, to hear a recital they were giving for the patients. During the 
intermission, my mother looked in on Grandmother, just in time to 
see her die. Mother told me of how she closed Grandmother's eyes and 
then went back and finished the recital. It was my mother who gave 
me the courage not to be afraid of a powerful dramatic style. In the 
Greek plays, with her old-fashioned style, she was a wonderful actress. 
She is now a very good director. 

As a child, I saw many plays based on fairy tales. At the age of 
eight, I starred in one, called "The Princess Searching for a Good 
Human Being/' I played the part of a fool who accompanies the prin- 
cess to fairyland, called Schlaraffenland, where rivers are of milk, birds 
fly into your mouth, and apple strudel grows forever. My mother tells 
me that I stopped acting in the middle of the play and started eating 
apple strudeL I never attended a formal acting school. I do not like 
being taught. I like to learn by myself. All my life, from the time I was 
a small child, I felt a desire to experience life as deeply as possible. 
What made me go ahead in acting was that urge. Today, I have learned 
that I can go only as far as my body will materialize my thoughts, 
When I was fifteen, I had my first professional acting job, the 
leading role in a movie called "Steinbruch," made by the producer 
Karl Stapenhorst in Zurich. I played a twelve-year-old girl. The 
next year, I was given my first stage role, the part of Clarchen 



in Goethe's "Egmont." I created an uproar in the theatre. I stood 
in the wings trying to feel my part, and then I came onstage, 
opened my mouth, and said, "I'm sorry, but I can't get the feeling," 
and rushed off the stage in tears. After this fiasco, the manager of the 
theatre assured me that I was a great comedienne, and gave me a comic 
role in a play called "Drunter und Driiber," meaning "All Upside 
Down." Right after that, I had my first real success as a comedienne in 
"Scamplo," by Dario Niccodemi, in which I played the part of a na- 
ture professor's daughter. I was seventeen, and I came to the theatre on 
the eve of the opening and saw my name being posted up in big letters. 
I then had the very strange experience of becoming paralyzed. I sud- 
denly grew aware that I was expected to be very good. I became like 
the centipede with the fly in an old German story. The fly says to the 
centipede, "I have six legs, and I know how to walk, but you have a 
hundred legs how do you walk?" So the centipede starts to think, and 
then he becomes paralyzed and cannot walk. I was so afraid. On open- 
ing night, I wanted to stay home in bed. My mother made me get up 
and go to the theatre. She told me something I never forgot: "An 
actress never fails her audience. If you cannot be good, then you must 
have the courage to be bad." 

From Zurich, I went on to a theatre in Solothurn, Switzerland, where 
I spent two years, off and on, at a salary of fifty dollars a month, play- 
ing in Shakespearean dramas and other classics. Then I found a job 
in the State Theatre of Berne, at a hundred and fifty dollars a month, 
and I played in dramas by Shakespeare, Shaw, and Moliere. In 1949, I 
played my first grown-up film role, in a German production of "The 
Angel with the Trumpet," starring Paula Wessely. That led me to the 
Viennese theatre, and while I was playing the lead in Elmer Rice's 
"Dream Girl" in Vienna, Alexander Korda asked me to fly over to 
London for a couple of days to see him about going into films in 
England. I visited Korda in his flat at the top of Claridge's, and he 
asked me to sign a seven-year contract with him, but I said no. I told 
him I did not want to leave Vienna. He said he would give me four 
months off each year to be on the stage there. Still I did not want to 
do it. As I was ready to go back, he said he wanted to give me a few 
words of advice. We were speaking in German, and he said, "I like 
your idealism, M aria, but the day will come when you are forty-five, 
and you will look back, and see that all your hopes and expectations 



did not turn out the way you thought. And you will wonder, Did I 
miss my chance, even if it was only a chance to learn to speak Eng- 
lish?" It was that last question that convinced me, and I signed the 
contract. In London, I learned to speak English in three months. I 
played in an English film version of "The Angel with the Trumpet," 
and then in "The Magic Box," with Robert Donat; "So Little Time," 
with Marius Goring; and "The Heart of the Matter, with Trevor 
Howard. I took time off from making these movies to go on several 
long theatre tours in Switzerland, Holland, and Belgium, playing 
Gretchen in "Faust," with Albert Basserman, and Nora in Ibsen's "A 
Doll's House." In 1953, I made a movie in Yugoslavia, "The Last 
Bridge," and in 1955, in Paris, I made "Gervaise," directed by Rene 
Clement. I have made movies in Hollywood, including "The Brothers 
Karamazov," "The Hanging Tree," and "Cimarron," and I have been 
in "Playhouse 90" television dramas "Word from a Sealed-Off Box" 
and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" taped in New York. I speak smoothly 
in English and in French as well as in German. In acting, I can think 
and feel in whichever language is called for. I was married in 1957 
to Horst Hachler, a young German film director who had worked as 
assistant director of "The Last Bridge." We have a son, Oliver Chris- 
tian Hachler, born in January, 1962. We live twenty-eight miles out- 
side of Munich, in a newly completed house of natural stone, with a 
swimming pool, a fireplace, and verandas overlooking the lovely 
Bavarian hills and the town of Wasserberg, which is a thousand years 

There is a point in life when one has to make a very clear decision 
about one's life and sources of life: whether to accept life with all its 
chaos and disorder or whether to attempt to find harmony in it; 
whether to take life as it comes or to try to guide it. I think I'm capable 
of living either way, but the second way is more important to me. For 
example, when I got married, I decided, This will now have to be part 
of my own life. Strangely enough, I never decided to become an actress. 
It was always completely natural to me. I want to be part of all of life, 
of the world, of the universe, and it is in acting that I find a way of 
being part of all three. That is why I love acting. It guides me to all 
experience and to all feeling. There is a certain moment in life when 
you must free yourself from all others. I have now reached that plateau 
in my life, and I am free of everyone else. It developed this way step by 



step. In Zurich, when I first got to know the theatre, which was then 
built up mostly by refugees from Hitler, I was moved by what I saw 
by their fantastic teamwork. I admired four actresses Elisabeth Berg- 
ner, Kathe Dorsch, Paula Wessely, and Kathe Gold. Kathe Gold was 
my idol for many years. In Zurich, too, I had my first experience, in a 
childish way, of trying to bring some truth to the part I was playing, 
which was a laundry girl. I knew about Stanislavski, but I had not 
absorbed his ideas. I devised my own little ways. I went around with a 
laundry basket in the old town of Zurich, trying to find streets that 
corresponded to my images. Whatever I had in my head I tried to find, 
so that I could touch it. I wanted to make it real. The process of form- 
ing and shaping had started. Today I don't need so many tangible 
things to help. It was also in Zurich that I had my very first feeling that 
I was another person, not myself. I was in a small part, but I was on- 
stage most of the time during the play. For the first time, the stage 
became for me another world. Now I have the capacity for concentra- 
tion, for losing myself, for believing I am someone else. There's not 
even a second mind that tells me I'm on the stage, only an awareness 
that tells me where I am going. 

It was on the "Faust" tour with Basserman, however, that I had, for 
the first time, strange and wonderful experiences of the mystical sort. 
Before the play, I used to sit for an hour trying to concentrate away 
from myself. I tried not to think, so that everything that was worrying 
me would go away all my fears, all my ambitions so that the con- 
fidence that I was the girl I was supposed to play would grow within 
me. Then, one night, I had the feeling that the girl was alive, even 
though she was only a thought of a poet. And the girl spoke to me. She 
said, "Oh, I loved him much more." And I knew that for me the girl 
was alive. I didn't talk to anyone about my experience. All I thought 
about was how I could transform myself completely into another be- 
ing's truth. Stanlslavski's ideas worked within me. I found my own way 
of constructing another being out of what I consist of myself my past, 
my present, and the circle of my presence. Three girls, German, French, 
and American, with the same capacity for feeling, will expect and give 
different things; they will be made profoundly happy, or profoundly 
unhappy, by different things. Everyone has an inner nationality. I 
think that I am very German in my urge to make things deeper, in the 
way small things are large to me. When I am working, all that I think 



and feel and want, and all that I have learned and experienced, con- 
centrates itself within the limits of the character I am playing. When I 
read a script, I receive an image corresponding to what I. have gone 
through in life. With what I call my talent, I try to make this image 
strong with my heart, my body, my thoughts. My thoughts test it, 
doubt it, and build it within myself. Then I put this image together 
with my ability, and the image and the final result get closer and 
closer together, until they are one. Once in a scene, I try, by remaining 
as empty as I possibly can, to come to this identification with the char- 
acter I'm playing. I try then to avoid thought. I try to be nothing but 
the result of what has happened before. I try to live this person. On 
the stage, there is the advantage of working step by step, growing and 
developing together with the other actors. In television, there is still a 
chance for some development, even though the atmosphere is very 
hectic. In films, you are alone. For the first two or three days, in making 
a movie, my body still hasn't experienced all the thoughts, feelings, and 
images, and I am slow and awkward, but then it begins to happen, and 
I can make the image live. Movies are a wonderful medium. Through 
a closeup, you can say something with your own heart that is the 
equivalent of the monologue on the stage. However, in films the image 
is very fragile; it can be easily disturbed if you don't work toward giv- 
ing it form. The way I have found to strengthen the image for a movie 
is to write on the script what the author did not write about the char- 
acter. In films, I cannot rely on my intuitive feelings of the moment, 
which may mislead me. I can't talk to myself. I can't rehearse with 
myself. So I write out my thoughts until the image becomes more and 
more clear. I like movies, possibly because I have such an urge to make 
things last. I have learned that good results can come from tension and 
argument as well as from harmony. Sometimes I disagree with a direc- 
tor. In "Gervaise," I wanted to bring out what there is in the character 
that touches us today, while Rene Clement wanted to show life the way 
it was in those days. I wanted to show how the little things, not the big 
things, can destroy us, how the small daily failures lead to catastrophe. 
Clement wanted to show the drama and social life of the time. So we 
argued, and I learned, and began to understand it in his terms. And 
now I'd go with blind eyes to work with Clement again. He opened the 
way for me in so many respects. 

Today, I am capable of bending my talent to what the subject calls 



for. I know how to find the true meaning and structure of a play. I 
now have the courage to give, to open myself. Actors are artists. I 
believe that acting is a small manifestation of life. On the stage, we 
create a concentrated form of life, but it is on a small scale. I don't 
consider acting essential to life. We are re-creative rather than creative 
artists. The painter or the writer is dependent only on himself, while 
the actor is always dependent on others. But each actor has a little 
workshop inside himself that is his own, and there is something im- 
portant going on inside actors who really love their profession. Even 
though every individual is different from the next, I think that human 
feelings can be conveyed. When the artist gives his feeling form, it is a 
bridge. Art can transmit something that even people who are close to 
each other cannot communicate directly. We actors are the very poor 
artists; still, there is a little space for us. In my own self as an actress, 
I keep to myself, but I sense the worlds of other people. Each person 
has his own world. My inner world is the most important thing I have. 
I try as much as I can to respect people. The world of another person 
may be a big circle or a small one. What is important is to explore each 
circle, whatever the size, to the outermost edge. When I am in another 
person's circle, I am quiet quieter than I used to be when I was very 
young. When the moment comes, I can be open. I like to communicate 
with people, but I need time by myself. Alone, I take in new strength; 
then I can give it out. It is very much like breathing in and out. 



There are two souls in every actor. One watches the 
other. When both are content at the same time, you 
have a good moment. 

I was born on December 8, 1930, in Vienna, the third of four children 
of a Viennese actress and a Swiss playwright, novelist, and poet. My 
father was never enthusiastic about the idea of his children's acting-; 
he felt that acting was too intense an occupation to allow for real 
happiness. But my two sisters and my brother and I were all attracted 
to the stage and are now acting. I grew up in a theatre atmosphere and 
took it for granted. I remember the theatre, as a child, the way most 
people remember their mothers' cooking. Acting was all around me, 
and so was poetry. I made my debut in the theatre at the age of three, 
in Vienna, playing a blade of grass in a children's sequence in an 
allegorical play written by my father. When I was eight, my father 
moved our family to Switzerland, away from Hitler. When I was 



about ten, I wrote a play called "Klitos/' about the friend of Alexander 
the Great who always told him the truth about everything, and how 
one day, when Alexander was drunk, he killed Klitos because he told 
him the truth. The play was produced by my school, the Humanistisches 
Gymnasium in Basel, and I acted the part of Klitos myself. I also 
appeared in a professional play, in the part of William Tell's son. I 
grew up reading the classics. When I'd read the books of writers like 
Zane Grey, my father would always say to me, "Why don't you read 
Goethe?" My father today is not impressed by my acting in movies. 
For my father, the film is not a real art, and as he is a poet, he does not 
care about outside success. When I see him, we talk about poetry and 
writing. I attended the University of Zurich for a year. I was a good 
soccer player and a member of the champion Swiss rowing team. To 
earn money, I worked as a newspaper correspondent, writing sports re- 
ports for Swiss newspapers. I appeared in many student productions 
and also found small acting jobs on the professional stage, and played 
many classical as well as modern parts. I studied philosophy and the 
history of art. Then I felt I wanted to go away, to learn about life. I 
continued my studies at the University of Munich, and then I had my 
Swiss military service for about a year. After that I returned to the Uni- 
versity of Zurich for a year and attended the University of Basel for 
about six months. I then decided, Either you are a scientist or an artist. 
A scientist is always trying to take things apart and an artist is always 
creating things and putting them together, and you can't do both un- 
less you're a genius, which I am not. To me it is much more important 
to look at the stained-glass windows in Chartres and to admire and feel 
and be stimulated and inspired than it is to figure out the mechanics 
and workmanship of how the windows were made. Art comes out of 
chaos, not out of a mechanical analyzing. So as soon as I made up my 
mind there was no sense any more in continuing to study and in 
getting a degree. It is like an award; it does not mean anything in it- 
self. If you get an award as an actor as I did from the New York Film 
Critics as the Best Actor of the Year for "Judgment at Nuremberg" it 
does not mean you are a better actor. A university degree is just a title. 
I don't think an artist should have a title. It was time fc>r me to con- 
centrate on acting. 

For the next four years, I worked in many theatres in the Swiss 
provinces, and also in Germany, Austria, and France. I spent six 



months in Munich, with the Kammerspiele Theatre, one of several 
there that are supported by the city or the state. My older brother, 
Carl, is acting there now, and in other theatres throughout Europe. My 
older sister, Maria, is a movie star, and my younger sister, Editha, is be- 
ginning to make a name for herself as an actress in Germany and Swit- 
zerland. I can't remember when I first saw my mother on the stage, and 
I can't even remember seeing her off the stage when I was a child. My 
mother has often been called one of the most beautiful women in Eu- 
rope. I remember seeing her play in "Snow White and the Seven 
Dwarfs" when I was eight. She played the part of the evil queen. The 
play was done with music, and it made a strong impression on me. 
When I was a child, I always took the atmosphere of the theatre, and 
my being in it, for granted. I didn't especially want to become an actor. 
Acting is such a reproducing art. What I wanted was to become a 
painter, a musician, or a playwright; I particularly wanted, and still 
want, to be a writer. I have written several unproduced plays and one 
unpublished novel. I can't tell whether what I write is good, but I 
can tell whether it expresses what I want to express. The world now 
tries to put everyone and everything into a category. When a play 
is put into a category, it loses so much the secret of what it has 
to say. I suppose I'm an actor and a writer because I come from 
an acting and a writing family. If I had been the son of a musi- 
cian, I suppose I would have become a musician. But I am the son of a 
playwright, and now I would prefer to be a playwright. 

Still, I love to act. I began to love acting when I played Hamlet in a 
two-and-a-half-hour television show made in Cologne and broadcast all 
over Europe on New Year's Day, 1961. It was like falling in love with a 
woman my feeling about acting. You meet a woman once, and noth- 
ing special happens. Then you meet her again, and after a while you re- 
alize you are in love. I had known acting all my life, but not until I 
acted the part of Hamlet did I have a moment when I knew I was in 
love with acting. Something in me had told me I was going to play 
Hamlet someday. When the role came to me, I was ready for it. I felt as 
if I had known Hamlet all my life. Hamlet belongs to me. Laurence 
Olivier is best known for his Hamlet. It has brought him great success. 
When I saw it, I didn't like it. Every actor reaches two or three high 
points in his lifetime. Marlon Brando reached a high point in "A Street- 
car Named Desire/' Montgomery Clift reached one in "Prom Here to 



Eternity." Olivier reached one in "Hamlet," but, perhaps because I 
feel so strongly that the role of Hamlet is mine, he seemed to me to be 
more Olivier than Hamlet. In "Henry V," though, he seemed to be 
more Henry than Olivier. I've appeared on Broadway once, in an 
ANTA production of "Interlock," by Max Levin. It opened on Feb- 
ruary 6, 1958, and lasted for four performances. The play was a flop, 
but it was an experience I enjoyed. It was interesting to open in try- 
outs out of town. In Germany we open cold, without tryouts, and you 
know you have to do it, and the faults make it beautiful. 

My first screen role was in a German film called "Kinder, Mutter, 
und ein General," and then I played in eight other pictures, mostly 
German. In 1958, I made my American film debut as Hardenberg, a 
strong-minded German army officer, in "The Young Lions," with Mar- 
lon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and Dean Martin. After appearing in 
the part of the defense lawyer in the "Playhouse 90" television 
version of "Judgment at Nuremberg/' in 1959, I played the same 
part in the movie version, with Spencer Tracy and Richard Wid- 
mark. By the fall of 1959, I had earned enough money acting in tele- 
vision here to return to Germany and rent an apartment in Munich. 
I plan to write and produce stage and television plays in Munich. 
When I was given the New York Film Critics award for my per- 
formance in "Judgment at Nuremberg," I received the most wonder- 
ful letter from Maria. It was just two weeks before her baby, and my 
godson, was born. She wrote: "Now, when you have my letter in your 
hand, a beautiful day is coming for you. I will be with you, proud, be- 
cause I knew such recognition would come one day, leading to some- 
thing even greater and better. Maybe you thought somehow that it 
would be difficult for me. No. It was not difficult, or if it was, then not 
more than perhaps for a tiny second not only because you are close to 
me but because I count you among the truly great actors, and it is won- 
derful that besides that you are my brother." Maria and I are very close. 
When she played in "Ninotchka" in American television, in 1960, she 
asked me what to do in one scene, and I told her, "Give it all that you 
are." When I was playing Hamlet, I asked her the same kind of ques- 
tion, and she gave me the same kind of advice. I can act in French, 
German, English, and Italian, but I like best, and think I "am best, 
acting in English, because I have to think about the meaning of every 
word. Someday I want very much to produce and act in a play on 



Broadway. I still find that the classical figures are the most stimulating. 
The Greek heroes, an Achilles, a Klitos, are the greatest of all, 
greater than any of the Western heroes. 

Socrates once said, "Know yourself." I do not agree. I think that is 
bad advice. You should not know yourself. By knowing, you take away 
the secret of yourself. That sentence is one of the most dangerous 
sentences ever written, especially for an actor. If you are conscious of 
what you are doing, you are thinking about it, and not doing your 
best. You are not acting spontaneously. Every actor has a little bit of 
every other man inside him. And this is how it must be, for it is this 
that enables him, in each part he plays, to reach what he is or what he 
is hoping to be. Almost always, the first time I read a script it seems 
a little silly. It is difficult for me to find any good in it. Shakespeare is 
different. It is easy to read his plays, and they always seem good. When 
I was twenty, I played Romeo in rehearsal at Basel. Today, I still find 
Romeo interesting, new, and different. There will always be some new 
way of playing him. One of the great tragedies of our time is that we 
are never willing to admit that anything can be new. We just try to 
cover up, with our actions, what we don't know. It is very important 
for an actor to find and touch the nerve of his time. As I see Hamlet, 
he is a man who knows he can't get the world for himself, or become 
godlike, no matter what he does. My Hamlet is like a man who has read 
John Osborne and Jean-Paul Sartre. He is a modern intellectual and 
a real man, not weak but a very strong man. I think Hamlet is very 
clear-minded, a very outspoken human being. He loves to go to bars, 
and he fences. He is a real prince and a hell of a guy. When I played 
him in Cologne, I made the dialogue conversational. It was as though 
the words were being uttered for the first time. The production was 
a very unusual one. We had one very simple set black curtains, 
and just suggestions of steps. It was abstract in this way, but we never 
lost the reality. I think I played Hamlet truly, and in a way that no 
one else ever had. In playing him, I tried to touch the nerve of our 
time. Marlon Brando discovered very early how to do this, and it made 
him the important and successful actor he is today. He knows that in 
these times an actor can't say "I love you" openly to the girl he loves 
but has to cover up his feeling of love with some gesture. If John 
Barrymore another really successful actor were alive today, he 
would do the same, in his own way. He would respond to the times. 



An actor has to have success. A great painter can work within four 
walls, and his work can be recognized after his death. But an actor 
has nothing to leave. He has to have an audience during his lifetime. 
An audience wants entertainment, and an actor doesn't want to be 
boring; he wants to be interesting to his audience. An actor needs 
those people in the audience who are impressed with what he is doing, 
and he needs them right away. But he also needs the ninety per cent 
of every audience that doesn't know what the play means or what the 
actor means. The actor needs one hundred per cent of the audience. 
Nevertheless, I don't play for the audience; I play for an idea. Going 
to a play like "The Best Man" is like going to a football game. "Sweet 
Bird of Youth" made me a little sick. Tennessee Williams is a good 
playwright, but he is not a poet. The classics are different. The classics 
say something and offer something more for an evening than watching 
a football game. But most classics are wrong for the time and have to 
be brought up to date. In any event, I need the audience to be there. 
And I need reviews, good or bad. If there were no reviews, the actor 
would be completely defeated, because the reviews tell ninety per cent 
of the audience what to think. When I act, I do exactly what / want, 
not what the audience wants. In all my early years in acting, I was not 
accepted by the audience. The critics thought I was bad, and the 
public didn't applaud me. All through my years in repertory, I kept 
hoping to find expression for the secret I knew I had inside me the 
kind of secret that Gary Cooper has in "High Noon," the movie that 
was his high point. In Hamlet, I think I found what I was looking 
for. When I act now, I know how to concentrate on one feeling at one 
moment in one manner. One of my first true moments in acting was in 
a small part in a television play called "Child of Our Time," about a 
concentration camp, on "Playhouse 90," in February, 1959. I played a 
prisoner of war. The exact point at which I reached my true moment 
was when I was going to die. Then I knew I wasn't just acting. I was 
being. At that moment, I knew that happiness lay in being alive. In 
any circumstances, just to be alive was happiness. This I felt, even 
though I knew that all of life was a preparation for dying. But, as Her- 
man Hesse says, in every truth lies its contrary, which is equally true. 
Just before doing Hamlet, I played in "The Three Musketeers" 
on American television. I played d'Artagnan, just to prove that I still 
was not too old to play a dashing twenty-year-old. Then I made 



three films, one after another: "Judgment at Nuremberg," "Five 
Finger Exercise/' and "The Reluctant Saint/' The last movie is 
the one that is closest to my heart. It was made in Italy and directed 
by Edward, Dmytryk, and in the film I reached what I always wanted 
to play, a kind of Chaplinesque comedy, very close to Dostoevski's 
"The Idiot/' Everything the saint is is the opposite of an actor's 
qualities. An actor has to be brilliant and vain, and open himself to 
the world. This character is humble and modest, and he loves to do low 
work, to clean the stables and to beg maybe in the begging the saint 
and the actor are relatives and later he becomes a monk. In "Judg- 
ment at Nuremberg," I was able to do a good straight piece of acting, 
but in "The Reluctant Saint" I felt for the first time that I was able 
to make something strongly my own in a film. 

Before I became successful in American films, my best notices from 
international critics came after I played Hamlet on German television. 
The notices were overwhelming. When the critics think I'm good, they 
rave about me, and when they think I'm bad, the same critics tell me 
I should go back to acting school. Actually, I've never gone to a school 
for acting, although I've taken speech lessons and classes in fencing and 
dancing. In Europe, a school isn't needed, because we have repertory 
theatre to give us experience. Acting talent is something that all chil- 
dren are born with. They naturally play cops and robbers, mothers and 
daughters. True art in acting is different. To be an artist, you must be 
lonely. I feel that I must keep my life lonely in order to be as free as 
possible. I cannot think or act unless I am free, and I cannot be free un- 
less I am alone. So far, I have lived like a hermit, alone, and I expect to 
die alone. My hours are irregular. I get up at any time two in the 
morning, eleven in the morning, five in the evening. My parents have a 
house in Zurich and a farm in Austria, and since I have my own apart- 
ment, I can visit them as I please. The farm has been in the family 
for a hundred years. There are two hunting cabins on the property, 
which is surrounded by mountains and forest. My father and my uncle 
hunt deer there, but I do not like to hunt. I like to walk through 
the forest by myself. In 1948 and 1949, when I wrote part of my first 
novel, which I have never shown to anyone, I isolated myself in one of 
the hunting cabins for three months, without a telephone, without 
electricity, with heat only from a large open fireplace. I like to work 
in the woods, cutting trees. I want to continue writing especially 



plays. I have a piano in my apartment in Munich, and I play for hours 
at a time for my own pleasure. After I make a film, I find I need to rest. 
An actor must have pauses in between work, to renew himself, to read, 
to walk, to chop wood. Now that I have had success, I find there are 
some drawbacks greater demands on my time for myself but I like 
it. Freedom I always had, but now the possibilities are so much greater 
for me to do what I want. When you want to do something that is 
really in your heart, you keep it there until you do it. I do not like 
to say what these things are. Picasso would not say, "I am now going 
to paint something." He would do it first. I, also, want to do it first. 



I like all the preparation that goes into acting the 
exploratory work, the intellectual stimulation, all the 
peripheral things. But as soon as I hear "Roll 'em!" 
for the camera, or the curtain goes up, and I'm com- 
mitted to exposing myself, I find the experience of 
literally standing out in front of people to be un- 
comfortable and sometimes painful. 

I was born on January 26, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio. My father, Arthur 
S. Newman, ran a sporting-goods store. He died in 1950. My mother 
lives in Cleveland and comes to New York for all my openings and for 
visits. My father was Jewish, and my mother was a Roman Catholic 
and is now a Christian Scientist. I was raised as a Christian Scientist. 
We lived in the rather well-to-do neighborhood known as Shaker 
Heights. I have one brother, Arthur S. Newman, Jr., a year older than 
I am, who lives in California and is going to work as a production or 
unit manager for my new producing firm. I grew up with the idea that 
I was going into the sporting-goods store. My whole family, including 
a couple of uncles, took it for granted. Nobody in my family was con- 
nected with acting, although my mother was always, in some way, 
drawn to it. She used to go to see the plays at the Hanna Theatre, in 
Cleveland, and was just spellbound by it all. She never took me along, 
but she used to tell me about it. At the age of seven, I was in a gram- 
mar-school play about Robin Hood. A song for the play was written by 
one of my uncles, Joseph S. Newman. I played a court jester. I didn't 


like it. I felt as uncomfortable and disturbed then as I do now when 
I'm onstage. I had one entrance and one exit. I was a big hit. My 
family was hysterical with pride and admiration. Five years later, I 
was in a children's play about St. George and the Dragon, put on at 
the Cleveland Playhouse. I played St. George and poured salt on the 
dragon. Again I was a big hit. I didn't enjoy it, and I wouldn't enjoy 
it now* My wife, Joanne Woodward, is just the opposite. Whenever 
she's acting, she gets a real jolt out of it. Some people get a sense of 
satisfaction out of their own torment. For me, acting is simply a mat- 
ter of getting out there onstage or in front of the camera and get- 
ting the motor running and keeping it going. One trait I've always had 
is a kind of tenacity in whatever I set out to do. 

At Shaker Heights Senior High School, I stage-managed and acted 
in plays in the usual extracurricular routine, and I remember that 
one of my big disappointments was not getting the role of the First 
Gravedigger in "Hamlet/' (I got the job of stage manager.) But while 
I was in high school and college I never considered going into acting 
as a profession. After graduating from high school, in 1943, I enlisted 
in the Navy for flight training. While I was waiting around to be 
called, I attended Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, for four months, 
and majored in beer-drinking, though I did manage to wander into 
auditions for the Speech Department's production of "The Milky 
Way/' by Lynn Root and Harry Clork, and come out with one of 
the leads Speed McFarland, the middleweight champ. I couldn't wait 
to be a pilot, though. I loved to fly. But in July, 1943, I flunked the 
physical because of color-blindness, and was kicked out of pilots' train- 
ing. I wound up as an aviation radio man third class on a torpedo 
bomber, and served in the South Pacific for nearly three years. While 
I was in the service, I didn't spend one minute thinking about act- 
ing. After my discharge, in April, 1946, I went to Kenyon College, in 
Gambier, Ohio, ninety miles southwest of Cleveland, where I con- 
centrated on economics for a couple of years and then switched to 
English and speech. Kenyon is one of the most highly respected men's 
colleges in the country. My days there were the happiest of my life. I 
managed to get on the second-string football team. I weighed only 
a hundred and fifty pounds I weigh a hundred and fifty-six now 
but in those days I had a lot of energy. I also used to drink a lot of 
beer. One high-spirited day early in my junior year, I was kicked 



off the team. I hadn't thought about acting in the two years 
I'd been at Kenyon, but I had to do something with my spare 
time, so I went over to the Speech Department, where they were 
holding tryouts for "The Front Page/' They handed me the part of 
Hildy Johnson. I went on to appear in nine more Kenyon College 
plays, including "Charley's Aunt," "R.U.R.," "The Taming of the 
Shrew/' and "The Alchemist." I was probably one of the worst col- 
lege actors in history. I didn't know anything about acting. I had no 
idea what I was doing. I learned my lines by rote and simply said 
them, without spontaneity, without any idea of dealing with the forces 
around me onstage, without knowing what it meant to act and to re- 
act. I didn't really learn about any of that until I got into the Actors' 
Studio, in August, 1952. But I got some measure of local recognition 
out of being in the plays. 

I didn't have any singleness of purpose about acting until 1 became 
successful at it. In those early days, I was thinking of becoming a 
teacher. I more or less stumbled into serious acting. I wanted to run 
from the sporting-goods business, and acting was as good a way as any. 
People dedicated to an art are usually running toward something, but 
I was just running away, and where I arrived was the result of a series 
of accidents. In 1948, after my junior year, I did a summer of stock at 
Plymouth, Massachusetts. Then, in the spring of my senior year at 
college, I was offered a room-and-board scholarship for a season of 
summer stock at Williams Bay, Wisconsin. My graduation was at two 
in the afternoon on June 13, 1949, and by four that same afternoon 
I was on the train for Williams Bay. My first part was the soldier in 
Norman Krasna's "John Loves Mary/' My second was the Gentle- 
man Caller in Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie." At the 
end of the summer, I went to Woodstock, Illinois, near Chicago, and 
played a season of winter stock. That spring, I took a job as a laborer 
on a farm near Woodstock. In April of 1950, my father became seriously 
ill, and I went back to Cleveland. He died in May, and I stayed in 
Cleveland, and worked at the sporting-goods store with an uncle and 
a cousin and my brother. Then the store was sold. I took on some 
odd jobs, including one as manager of a golf range outside Cleveland, 
where we picked up golf balls and cleaned them for reuse. I did a 
little acting over a local radio station for the McCann-Erickson adver- 
tising agency and for the Ohio Bell Telephone Company. In 1949, I 



had got married for the first time. My first wife and I had three chil- 
dren; the children now live with their mother. I have two children with 
my present wife, Joanne. We live in an apartment on Park Avenue. 
New York is our base of operations. My roots are here now. It's my 
home. There are a million things I like about the city, and I walk 
around it a lot, from one end of Lexington Avenue to the other, and 
up and down Fifth, up and down Second. Joanne and I are pretty self- 
sufficient. We enjoy being alone together. 

By September, 1951, I had had enough of hanging around Cleve- 
land. I decided to go to Yale and study for a Master's degree, so that 
I would be qualified to teach speech, possibly at Kenyon. I moved 
my family to New Haven. We lived on the top floor of an old wooden 
three-family house. I went around New Haven as a salesman of en- 
cyclopedias and managed to earn enough to support my family while 
I attended the Yale School of Drama. I specialized in directing. I 
heard a lot of talk about acting at Yale. I heard a lot of reverent 
talk and rightly so about the Actors' Studio, in New York. It 
was the first time I had heard of the Studio. I acted in three or 
four full-length plays and half a dozen one-act plays, and was also 
in one of the three major productions of the year, an original play 
called "Beethoven/' in which I played Beethoven's nephew a very 
formal guy. The part certainly wasn't anything like the all-American- 
boy parts I got to do later on. William Liebling, an agent from 
New York, saw me in the play and suggested that if I ever came 
to New York I should look him up. So after nine months at Yale 
I decided to try New York. It was the summer of 1952. I was prepared 
to try it for a year, and, if I got nowhere, to go back to Yale and get 
my degree. I had a family. I had responsibilities. Things were a little 
crowded in New Haven, financially, but I was making out fairly well 
with the encyclopedias; I once made about nine hundred dollars 
in ten days. I was committed to the theatre in a general way 
not specifically as an actor but I wasn't going to subject my family 
to the hanging-out-at-Schwab's-drugstore-in-Hollywood routine. I had 
no intention of waiting around till I was old and bruised and 
bitter. I moved the family into a sixty-dollar-a-month apartment on 
Staten Island. I picked Staten Island because my wife's aunt lived 
there and would give us a hand with the kids; we couldn't afford a 
baby sitter. I went around selling encyclopedias on Staten Island. It 



was one of the hottest summers I can remember in New York. I had 
one decent suit in those days an old seersucker and I'd put it on 
every morning. I'd start out at eight every morning, take the ferry to 
Manhattan, make the rounds of the casting agents, follow up all the 
tips in the trade papers, and then get back to Staten Island in time to 
peddle encyclopedias. After a month or so, I got two walk-on parts in 
live television shows. For one "The March of Time/* in which I ap- 
peared as an old man applauding at the inauguration of President 
McKinley I was paid seventy-five dollars. I auditioned for the Ac- 
tors' Studio doing a scene as Val Xavier in "Battle of Angels" with a 
girl and, to my amazement, I was accepted. I attended faithfully. I 
felt adulation for Eli Wallach, Rod Steiger, Geraldine Page, Maureen 
Stapleton, and Kim Stanley, who were at the Studio. But the most I 
hoped to accomplish for myself was still to become a teacher of 
dramatics. And I still dreaded being drawn back into retail business, 
which had given me no sense of accomplishment at all. There's a great 
deal of romance in merchandising if you have an interest in it to begin 
with. I didn't have it. However, I thought I was a- very bad actor. My 
body movements were all wrong. I was an untuned piano. I had a lot 
to overcome. I discovered that I was primarily a cerebral actor as I 
still am. I began to understand that actors who are instinctively emo- 
tional are much luckier. The instinctively emotional actor like Lee 
J. Cobb, Geraldine Page, Kim Stanley, and Marlon Brando when he's 
clicking, and also my wife, Joanne work, I think, from the inside 
out. Their emotional equipment is much more readily available to 

Soon, I auditioned for Maynard Morris, a Music Corporation of 
America agent, and through him I got my first speaking part in a 
television play. It was called "Tales of Tomorrow" and was about 
a big block of ice that was forming off our West coast. The story 
was full of the pulsations of cracking ice, and made one of the 
funniest shows in television history. But all I felt was scared to death. 
I played an Army sergeant and had two dozen lines to speak, and I 
was so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the occasion that all I could 
think about was the possibility that I'd drop a line. I didn't, though. 
A few weeks before, through Bill Liebling, the other agent, I'd 
gone to see William Inge about getting a part in his play "Picnic." 
I'd been scared stiff. I'd read for him and thought I read very 



badly. Then, a month after that, I read for the director, Joshua Logan, 
and I came away with the job of understudying the lead, Ralph 
Meeker. After a few weeks of rehearsals, I was given the part of Alan 
Seymour, the rich young man who didn't get the girl, played by Janice 
Rule. So there I was. All I had behind me was nine months at Yale 
and a couple of months at the Actors' Studio. "Picnic" was a hit. I 
was paid a hundred and fifty a week as understudy and two hundred a 
week after I got my part. I moved my family to Long Island to a 
two-bedroom, eighty-eight-fifty apartment in Queens Village. I was 
with the play until just before the end of its run of four hundred and 
seventy-seven performances. 

Even after I had my part in "Picnic," I wouldn't say I was 
exactly self-confident. While we were out of town with the play during 
tryouts, I was constantly fearful that the whole thing was going to 
turn out badly. After the play opened in New York and I had played 
in it for a year, I began to get a little self-confidence. By then I was 
even beginning to wonder if I couldn't really make acting my profes- 
sion and earn a living at it. After doing "Picnic," I went out to Holly- 
wood, under contract to Warner Brothers. I took my family with me, 
and we lived in a motel in Burbank, near the studio, while I made my 
first movie, "The Silver Chalice." I have to say "Ouch!" every time I 
think about it. I played a sculptor who was supposed to model the chal- 
ice to hold the Holy Cup. My acting was very, very bad, and I knew im- 
mediately that it was bad. It felt terrible. I was uncomfortable with 
what I was doing. I couldn't handle the language I was supposed to 
speak. After a couple of weeks, I sent a frantic message to my agent 
in New York telling him he'd better find me a play to do, to get me 
back here. I was flailing around, and got a reputation in Hollywood 
as a very difficult actor. Every time I asked a question, there was 
trouble. When the movie was finished, I lit out for New York and did 
a couple of good television plays, one by Tad Mosel and the other by 
Stewart Stern. In Tad Mosel's script, I played a guy who has an Army 
buddy whose death he feels responsible for, and when he goes to the 
buddy's home and meets his mother she was played by Fay Bainter 
he tries to take the buddy's place with the family. I felt comfortable 
in the part. It was the first part I'd ever played that I found the 
character for. Luckily, after doing "The Silver Chalice" I had got the 
job of playing on Broadway in Joseph Hayes' "The Desperate Hours," 



about a trio of desperadoes who take over a man's home. I played 
Glenn Griffin, the leader of the trio. In order to get permission from 
Warner Brothers to do the play, I had to sign a new contract. Instead 
of a five-year contract to make two pictures a year, I signed a seven- 
year contract giving them an option for a third picture. I played in 
"The Desperate Hours" for eight months at a salary of seven hundred 
dollars a week and I continued going regularly to the Actors' Studio. 
The play was very melodramatic. My part was a flashy one, which I 
didn't particularly like. The critics liked me a lot in the play, but I 
don't know why. At the end of It, I went back to Hollywood. 

I was lent to M-G-M for my second picture "The Rack," written 
by Rod Serling and Stewart Stern, in which I played a soldier in the 
Korean War who cracks under pressure from the Chinese Communists. 
I found that movie quite rewarding from an artistic standpoint, 
though it wasn't a hit at the box office. I then made one movie after 
another. For Warner Brothers, I made "The Helen Morgan Story" 
and "The Left Handed Gun." On loan again to M-G-M, I made 
"Until They Sail." In 1957, I made "Somebody Up There Likes Me," 
about the life of Rocky Graziano, which did more for my career than 
any of my earlier pictures. Playing Rocky was great fun. I spent a 
couple of weeks with him drinking with him, finding out how he felt 
about things. I didn't try to imitate him in the part, however. I tried 
to find a balance between him and me him as the part, and the part 
in me. I tried to play a Graziano, not the Graziano. Right after that, 
I was lent to Fox for "The Long, Hot Summer," in which I co-starred 
with Joanne, before our marriage. And I kept on going from one pic- 
ture to another. In 1958, I played in my first comedy, "Rally Round 
the Flag, Boys!," for Fox, and I wasn't very good, but trying a new kind 
of acting at least gave me an opportunity to stretch. Then I was turned 
over to M-G-M and played in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," with Eliza- 
beth Taylor. That was the first of my pictures, except for the one I 
made with Joanne, that I didn't have to carry pretty much on my own. 
Before that, it had just worked out, somehow, that I'd never played with 
a star. In working with Elizabeth Taylor, I was astonished to find that 
she was a real pro. She's not afraid to take chances in front of people. 
Usually, stars become very protective of themselves and very self- 
indulgent, but she's got a lot of guts. She'd go ahead and explore and 
risk falling on her face. I've made three movies with Joanne since our 



marriage, in 1958, and we find we like working together. We respect 
each other tremendously, and if one of us criticizes the other, the 
criticism is taken as gospel When we do a scene together, we both 
know we can't rely on tricks, and if one of us tries to, the other is sure 
to sound off about it. You have to be married to have that kind of 
freedom. Marriage is a wonderful area of comfort. In 1959, Warner 
Brothers got me to make "The Young Philadelphians," with the under- 
standing that it would buy my release to appear on the stage later that 
year in "Sweet Bird of Youth." After I'd been in the play for a year, 
I had to start making "From the Terrace" on location here in New 
York during the day while I was performing in the play at night, and 
when that was over, I was presented with an opportunity to buy my 
way out of the Warner Brothers contract. I had to pay half a million 
dollars for my freedom, but it was worth it. If I hadn't done it, I would 
soon have had ulcers. There are always limitations in making a movie 
unless you have control over what you're doing. Today I have my own 
producing company, with Martin Ritt, the director. It's called Jodell 
Productions, after the first syllable of Joanne's name and the second syl- 
lable of Ritt's wife's name. Some pictures purport to be profound, 
penetrating analyses of the contemporary scene, and just aren't. If you 
do a comedy, you know it's fluff; you know exactly what it is. So you 
grow a bit doing it. But when a picture pretends to be something it 
isn't, I find it Infuriating. I never want to do that kind of picture 
again if I can help it. A guy has got to come home at night with some 
sense of accomplishment. In making my own movies, I'll be taking a 
salary, as if I were working for somebody else. The main advantage is 
artistic, not financial. I made seventeen thousand dollars for my work 
in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," and two years later, for the picture 
"Sweet Bird of Youth," I got a three-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollar 
guarantee, with a chance to make more if the picture did very well. 
I can live very comfortably on my earnings, but I don't have much in 
the way of material possessions beyond the furniture in our New York 
apartment, a few paintings, a Volkswagen, and a Lambretta motor 
scooter, which I use for getting around in the city. I've never put any 
of my salary into investments. We go out to Hollywood to live when- 
ever Joanne or I have to work there, but we'll never buy a house there. 
What we want is a place up in Connecticut where we can go in the 
summertime; apart from that, we want to be as free as possible. 



In all the pictures I've made, I've tried to do the best I could. The 
character of the young lawyer that I played in "The Young Phila- 
delphians" was much closer to me as a human being and much 
duller than Eddie Felson, the character I played in "The Hustler," 
in 1961. But the characters that are farthest away from my own 
personality are the ones I feel most successful with. The farther 
away from me a character is, the more I find there is to dig into. If 
an actor gets one good script every three years, he's doing very 
well. I've been unusually lucky in what I've had a chance to do. 
These days, an awful lot of stuff comes through the door at least 
three or four books and six scripts a week. Joanne is the only person 
whose judgment I trust in helping me to decide what parts to take; it's 
impeccable. Making a movie is always a challenge to find out whether 
your intellectual judgments about the character you play are right, and 
whether the things you do, out of continuity and over a long period of 
time, blend together to make a consistent character. What you do is 
limited by your own imagination and your own experience, and to 
make it all jell is very, very challenging. All three of the main mediums 
for an actor are interesting, and while I don't mean to slight any of 
them, I do feel that the best is live television. That gives you every- 
thing: having it go non-stop; rehearsals beforehand; all the excitement 
of the first night. Whatever medium I'm working in, though, I'm always 
aware of a heavy responsibility to the author and to the other actors. 
One of the strains of going to the theatre each night is bearing this 
responsibility, even if you're feeling like death warmed over in your 
own personal life. 

When I begin working on a part, I find that the first things I do are 
usually wrong. After rehearsals start, however, I find that I get rid 
of the wrong things bit by bit, until I get the part so that it feels 
fairly comfortable and fairly right. Nowadays, for movies, I always give 
a director or a producer three or four weeks for nothing, in order to 
have a rehearsal period. I won't ever do anything again without re- 
hearsals. For "The Hustler,'* we had three weeks of rehearsal, using 
television technique, where you lay out tape on the floor to mark the 
sets. The motion-picture business is unlike any other in the way it 
forces you to walk into tight personal relationships and direct, close 
contacts for a period of three months, and exactly three months, and 
then boom! it's over. From there you walk into another batch of 



relationships for another movie, and you have close contacts with an 
entirely new bunch of people. You have to see the new bunch, and 
that leaves you no time to see the previous bunch. When you're like 
Joanne and me, and like to be self-sufficient, you're in a bit of trouble. 
Another thing is that we don't feel it's right to burden our two small 
children with the fact that their parents are movie stars, so we try to 
keep them away from it all. 

There's a tremendous fascination about the idea of acting trying 
to be the kind of person you'd like to be, or wouldn't like to be, or 
think you are. Everybody does it to a certain extent runs for Presi- 
dent or makes imaginary speeches before the United Nations. I love 
acting in the theatre. I love taking a script apart and trying to find 
the true person in the written character. The reward of acting on the 
stage is the continuity. We took three weeks to rehearse the Broadway 
production of "Sweet Bird of Youth." For the most part, I relied on 
the director, Elia Kazan, for what I did. He has broad shoulders. 
His invention, imagination, and patience are extraordinary. He 
helped me see that I had four things to comment on in portraying 
the character of Chance Wayne: the beauty of the relationship 
between men and women; the social disaster of a family that has 
lost the esteem of others; the fetish of youth and the importance 
of the fetish in our country; and the loving remembrance of youth. 
Well, that was a lot. But there were areas of Chance Wayne I 
never really got, including the aspect of the male whore. So it was 
always interesting to see what I could do with him. Nevertheless, 
after ten months of playing him on Broadway it got so that going 
to the theatre each night was like facing the dentist. I'd try to 
get to the theatre early. I'd have to have my dinner at five o'clock. 
Before every performance, I'd drink a couple of jiggers of honey 
for energy and for my throat; I'd lose three pounds every perform- 
ance. I'd sack out from about seven to five minutes to eight. Then I'd 
sit in the shower at the theatre and collect my wits. As I was going to 
the theatre for my last performance in the play, I thought, I feel utterly 
exhausted. And all of a sudden I started bawling like a baby. I 
thought, I'll never say these words again. I'll never have this specific 
laugh again. I'll never have this kind of quiet near the end of the 
third act. Never this specific quiet. 



Everyone has a false image of himself. When I first 
saw myself on the screen, twenty-five feet tall, what / 
saw was so unexpected that I couldn't look at anyone 
else in the picture. 

I was born on December 14, 1935, in Boston. My parents were divorced 
when I was twenty-one, and both have remarried. My father, Frank 
Remick, owns a department store in Quincy, Massachusetts. My 
mother, now Mrs. Frank Packard, is an actress under the name of Pa- 
tricia Remick. She did most of her acting between 1947 and 1957. 
These days, she lives in New York but leaves most of the acting 
in the family to me. She was a stand-in in "The Millionairess'* and 
a replacement in "The Small Hours/* on Broadway, and also 
played in summer stock in Dallas and on the Gape, and appeared 
in some television plays. She acted in comedy, mostly. I saw her 
a few times when I was a small child, and thought she was mar- 
vellous in everything. I have a brother, Bruce, two years older than I 
am, who lives in Puerto Rico, where he does soil and sugar-cane re^- 
search for a sugar plantation. My family moved to New York when 
I was seven. I was immediately entered in Miss Hewitt's Classes, then 
on East Seventy-ninth Street". My brother and I were taken to the 



theatre constantly; I remember that the first thing we saw was Eva Le 
Gallienne's production of "Alice in Wonderland/' with Eli Wallach 
and Bambi Linn. I took it all for granted, naturally assuming that all 
children went to the theatre. One of the early shows I saw was "Ca- 
rousel/' again with Bambi Linn, when I was ten. Watching Bambi 
Linn dance as the little girl whose father has died made me cry, and 
I cried all through the rest of the show. I was a very intense little 
girl. My mother wanted me to take ballet lessons, because she thought 
I wasn't getting enough exercise. She arranged for me to take lessons a 
couple of times a week at a school run by a Russian woman called 
Mme. Swaboda. It wasn't long before I was taking a lesson every day. 
I loved it from the start. I went there from the age of eight until I was 
a tall eighteen. When I was eighteen, I studied modern dance with 
Charles Weidman for over a year. I decided that I would become a 

At school, I was a fairly good student in everything except mathe- 
matics. At the age of twelve, I joined the dramatic club at Miss Hew- 
itt's, because my mother wanted me to, and I played the part of Mrs. 
de Winter in "Rebecca." Compared to dancing, acting seemed absurd 
to me, but there was some fun in dressing up and pretending. I had 
no notion what I was doing. All the parents and teachers came to the 
performance, and everybody applauded, and that was that. I hated 
the dramatic club; it was no fun to play adults in the kind of plays 
they put on. When I got to the dating age, I had no dates. I thought 
they were silly. My brother went to the Kent School, in Connecticut, 
and then to Cornell, and he'd bring his friends home and they 
would invite me to school dances. I went to a few and hated them. 
The kids would sit around and talk about who could drink the most 
and who could do the most popular dances and who was dating whom, 
and so on. I never knew how to handle myself in large groups of 
people. I never had anything to say. Nothing really mattered to me 
except dancing and working at Mme. Swaboda's. As soon as I was 
old enough to get around by myself, I went to every possible perform- 
ance put on by the Ballet Theatre or the New York City Ballet. My 
idols were Alicia Markova, Nora Kaye, Maria Tallchief all of them. 

In March, 1952, when I was in my next-to-last year at Miss Hewitt's, 
I read in a newspaper that auditions were being held in a midtown 
rehearsal hall for dancers for the Music Circus Tent, a summer-stock 



theatre-in-the-round at Hyannis, on Cape God. I went and auditioned, 
without telling anyone. I was sixteen, but I thought I looked past 
eighteen. There were about sixty boys and girls, in practice clothes. 
Like the others, I got up, did a few steps, and left my name, telephone 
number, and age, which I said was eighteen. The next day, to my sur- 
prise, I got a call telling me I was one of three girls chosen. I quickly 
joined Chorus Equity which has since merged with Actors' Equity 
and then told my mother. She wasn't exactly overjoyed, but she didn't 
object. Then I arranged to go up on a weekend and asked my 
father to drive me to Hyannis to see the theatre. When we got 
there, all we found was a big hole in the ground. We hadn't 
understood that the theatre was a real tent, put up in June and 
taken down in September. That June, I went to work. It turned 
out to be a summer of magic for me. We put on nine shows in ten 
weeks, including "Kiss Me, Kate," "Where's Charley?," "The Firefly," 
and "Carousel." I was paid about sixty-five dollars a week, and I saved 
all of it except twenty dollars a week, which went for room and board. 
Before each performance, we rehearsed from nine -in the morning until 
six in the evening for the following week's show. I never felt tired. 
I would have done anything they asked of me. I loved everything I 
did, everything around me, including my primitive dressing room a 
tiny cubbyhole in a cottage across from the tent. The high point of 
that beautiful, exciting summer came when we did "Carousel." I 
played one of Enoch Snow's daughters, and I was given my first real 
lines to say "My father bought me my pretty dress," and "Your father 
was a thief." They were my lines, and it was my show. There wasn't 
anything being done by anyone anywhere, we all felt, that could com- 
pare with what we were doing. 

At the end of the summer, I had to go back to Miss Hewitt's Classes. 
My parents approved of my interest in the theatre, but they were ab- 
solutely firm about my completing my studies and graduating. Al- 
though they were separated, they were together in whatever concerned 
my brother and me. So off I went to Miss Hewitt's. More than ever, as 
a result of my sophisticated experience in summer stock, Miss Hewitt's 
Classes and I just didn't mix. I was even less interested than before 
in the other students and what they did with their time. That fall, I 
continued with my ballet lessons, and then I started getting calls from 
producers and directors to read for parts in television dramas. I'd 


never had an acting lesson in my life, but I'd go down and read and 
get the parts. It was still the early days of television. We did live one- 
hour plays. My first big part, in an "Armstrong Circle Theatre" pro- 
duction, was that of a high-school girl, the class brain, who has no 
dates, and who one day meets a high-school boy who is in the same fix 
brainy and no dates so they get together and then everything is 
dandy. Things just seemed to snowball for me. I started going to lunch 
at Sardi's on Saturdays, because that was one of the things to do. One 
day when I was there, I waved to a theatre director and writer named 
Reginald Denham. Waving was a thing you were supposed to do at 
Sardi's. Then I stopped at his table on niy way out, and he said to me 
"Can you act?" I said "Of course." He asked me to read for a part 
in a play called "Be Your Age," by him and Mary Orr, with Conrad 
Nagel, Loring Smith, and Hildy Parks. So I had my first reading 
in a theatre. It was the most frightening and exhilarating thing 
in the world. There I was, onstage, all alone, under a bright light, 
with blackness out front, and the sound of voices. I read what 
they handed me the part of Lois Holly, a smart-aleck teen-ager who 
is always shocking her family. From out front, I heard laughs. I loved 
the sound. I loved the smell of the whole thing. I loved the whole idea 
of getting up and saying words written by someone else. I felt proud 
that I could do it. After a third reading, they gave me the part, at a 
salary of a hundred dollars a week. I told my mother I was in the play, 
and we were in seventh heaven. The play lasted for exactly five per- 
formances in New York. Miss Hewitt's wanted to expel me because of 
my appearance in "Be Your Age." It led to quite a battle. My mother 
made a fuss, and dear Miss Hewitt who is no longer with us called 
a meeting of the school board, at which, egged on by my mother, she 
held that experience in the theatre broadened one, and so on. So I 
wasn't expelled. Another play, "Time Out for Ginger," had opened a 
month and a half before ours, and, unfortunately, was about the same 
sort of thing. But there were agents and producers in our first-night 
audience, and the phone started ringing constantly, and went on 
ringing after the play closed. I started getting more television parts. 
I was in a number of television shows before I graduated from Miss 
Hewitt's Classes, in 1953. 

In the next four years, I appeared in about forty television shows, 
mostly dramatic plays. I worked in dozens of different parts a good 



many of them the lead in a triangle situation. I did a lot of crying on 
television. I worked with all kinds of directors and producers and ac- 
tors and sponsors. Just being immersed in all that gave me some idea 
of what acting was all about. 1 got a lot of pleasure out of acting, al- 
though I never abandoned the idea of dancing professionally; there 
just weren't enough hours in the day to do both. Actually, I was 
beginning to find the same thrill in acting that I had found in 
dancing; they had one aspect in common that of entertaining. As 
long as I could entertain in some way, I was satisfied. 1 did so many 
television shows that they all run together, somehow. All gave me some 
pleasure. For the "Kraft Television Theatre/' once, I was a piano- 
playing prodigy, and another time I was a teen-ager in trouble and 
going around with the wrong boy, who was also in trouble of some 
kind. I played one of the leads in an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 
story "The Diamond As Big As the Ritz," and I fell in love with the 
wrong boy in that one, too. Once, I was a girl who lived on a farm 
during the Civil War and fell in love with a Confederate soldier. In 
the "Playhouse 90" production of "The Last Tycoon," I fell in love 
with a movie mogul. In another "Playhouse 90" show, I was a juvenile 
delinquent in love with a man on trial for his life. I almost always 
played the part of the sweet young thing in love with the wrong boy 
or else the wrong boy was in love with me. After I was in a television 
show called "All Expenses Paid," in which I played a salesgirl who 
wins a trip to Nassau in a contest and falls in love with an older man, 
I had a telephone call asking me to come in and see Elia Kazan, who 
was going to direct the movie "A Face in the Crowd." I read for the 
part of the high-school cheerleader in the town visited by the tele- 
vision hero, played by Andy Griffith. I was so thrilled when I learned 
they wanted me for the part. It felt like something special, mainly be- 
cause Kazan and others associated with the picture were so highly 
respected in the theatre. It was the biggest project I'd ever worked in. 
The scale of it all the publicity and attention and noise was impres- 
sive. For the movie, I had to learn how to do little pieces of a part 
at a time. The nice thing was that if you goofed, you had a chance 
to try again. I learned how to have the piece I was doing figured out 
and prepared before I got to the set I was lucky to have Kazan as my 
first movie director, even though I wasn't able to appreciate fully what 
he was doing for me until the next movie we made together "Wild 



River/' with Montgomery Clift three years later. I'd been very criti- 
cal of myself, even on television. Every time I saw myself on the screen, 
I would cringe. I didn't like the way I looked. I didn't like the way I 
walked. I didn't like the way my voice sounded. I didn't like the way 
the various parts of my body were put together. My own image of 
myself just didn't match what I saw on the screen. 

It wasn't until "Wild River" that I was able to be more objective 
about myself. My part in that movie of a raw mountain girl, warm 
and loving, who isn't satisfied with her life and who chooses to follow 
her own desires instead of what her family wants for her was my 
favorite up to then. Working with Kazan on that part was a revela- 
tion. He has been an actor himself, and he knows how actors feel. He 
knows that anyone who is fool enough to get up on a stage or go before 
a camera is exposing himself in so many ways, and needs someone to 
give him support and confidence. Kazan always made me feel that I 
was the only person in the world who could do my part. There's so 
much to Kazan. He knows how to listen to actors; most actors love to 
talk, and never have a chance to say enough. He's observant of every- 
thing relevant to the actor. He's eloquent, and he knows how to extract 
the best performance from an actor. Actors confide in him. They tell 
him things they'd never tell another living soul. Then, whenever it's 
needed for your performance, he pulls something you've told him 
out of a hat and hands it back to you, and you know what to do 
in the performance. My interpretation of the role in "Wild River" 
was the truest in my experience, and it was Kazan who enabled me to 
make it true. In one scene, for example, it's raining outside, and I'm 
in my house waiting for Montgomery Clift, the man I'm in love with. 
Kazan suggested that I have a towel in my hands while waiting. He 
wanted me to give the towel to Monty in a certain way. Kazan kept 
telling me, "It's wet outside, wet and muddy, muddy and wet, wet, wet, 
and as soon as Monty comes in you'll want to give him the towel." 
Then, when Monty came in, I don't remember how I did what I did, 
but somehow I was feeling Monty's wetness. There was a certain feel- 
ing in it that couldn't have been there without Kazan. That was only 
one of a million things he does with actors. 

In making movies, you need to be able to rely on your director, be- 
cause there is no other audience, the way there is in the theatre, or 
even in live television. In movies, there are so many people trying to 



tell you what to do and how to do it, and then, when the movie comes 
out, they are still there, trying to tell you about what you've done. 
You need the support of the one man who is really in charge of what 
you do, and that is the director. I like to have an audience when- 
ever I can, though. That's why I like to do live television plays. I hate 
doing taped television, which has all the disadvantages of live televi- 
sion and of film, and none of the advantages of either. The first thing 
I think of in considering a new part is whether / am going to enjoy 
doing it. No one can advise me in that respect. Not even my husband, 
William Colleran, who is a television and film director. He's my worst 
critic, because he adores everything I do. I met him at a party when I 
was nineteen, and we were married on August 3, 1957. We live quietly 
in California with our two children Kate, born in 1959, and Mat- 
thew, born in 1961. 

I want to try everything in acting. In February of 1960, I played 
Miranda in "The Tempest" on the "Hallmark Hall of Fame/' with 
Maurice Evans, Richard Burton, Tom Poston, and Roddy McDowall. 
In "Anatomy of a Murder," the movie I played in with Ben Gazzara 
and James Stewart, I had to think of my part as peculiar in order to 
do it, because it was the part of a girl who was fooling around with 
other men while her husband was facing a charge of murder. In "A 
Face in the Crowd," I was a high-school girl who was proud of her 
body and flirted like mad. In the movie "Days of Wine and Roses," 
I played an alcoholic. That was the first time I'd felt that what had 
happened to the character I was playing might have happened to me 
that in every human being there is a certain frailty, and no one is 
immune. I'm not a martyr to truth. I play within my own limits. And 
second best to acting a part for which you can draw upon yourself 
is acting the part of someone you are curious about. 



There comes a moment onstage when you can't deny 
yourself and you can't deny the part you are playing. 
Somehow these two things come together when you 

1 was born on October 5, 1919, in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, which 
is D. H. Lawrence country, on the border of Sherwood Forest. My 
parents, Thomas Stanley Pleasence and Alice Armitage Pleasence, 
were also born in Worksop. It's about thirty miles from Scunthorpe, 
in Lincolnshire, where my father was a railway stationmaster in 1919. 
The only other person I know who comes from Scunthorpe is Joan 
Plowright. Theatrically, the place is a standing joke. It's a town no 
one goes to, so you say, "The play did very well in Scunthorpe." My 
grandfather was a railway signalman. I have one brother, Ralph, four 
and a half years older than I am, and he is a stationmaster at Smeeth 
Road, in Norfolk. My father, now retired, is a solid British Labour 
Party member, and likes the simple things. He's a keen gardener. My 
mother was taken from Worksop to America as a child and was 
brought up by her grandfather in Momence, Illinois, which is near 
Kankakee. She lived there for about fifteen years before returning to 
England. My parents recently came to America together for the first 
time, on a three-week holiday. They saw me in the Broadway produc- 



tion of "The Caretaker/* and then went to Momence, where my 
mother found the house she'd lived in as a child. I think she was 
pleased, but, like most North Country women, she doesn't believe in 
expressing emotional satisfaction. All she said was "Very nice." My 
father is the same. If, after seeing me in a performance, he were to say 
to me, "You were very good, love," I'd know he had been impressed, 
but that's as far as he'd go. My parents' visit to America was rather 
marvellous, actually. I took them round to see the sights in a 1955 
Oldsmobile, a splendid machine, and they had a chance to spend 
considerable time with my wife, Josephine, and our daughter, Lucy, 
who was born in May, 1961. I have two daughters by a previous 
marriage Angela, who was born in 1941 and is a student at the Royal 
Academy of Dramatic Art, and Jean, who was born in 1944 and wants 
to do social science. 

Until 1939, I had always lived in railway stations. Now it's be- 
coming usual for the stationmaster to get a house outside the 
station. I found the .stations wonderful places for a boy, especially 
the station at Grimoldby, in Lincolnshire, where my father became 
stationmaster when I was about nine. Grimoldby is a village in the 
wilds of flat fen country near the sea. It's very attractive country 
in a bleak kind of way. My brother and I played in the goods yard, 
climbing in and out of freight trucks, and we had animals about 
a pig, dogs, and turkeys. We lived there for about five years. It was a 
very happy time. Then we moved to Ecclesfield, right outside Sheffield, 
in Yorkshire, and a few years after that to Conisborough, which is a 
rather dirty colliery town in Yorkshire. I went to dozens of schools, 
including some wretched ones. The main one was Ecclesfield Grammar 
School, where I went until I was seventeen, and then quit. My parents 
were much concerned about the possibility that I wasn't going to be 
clever. Lincolnshire was very backward country educationally mostly 
farming country, with a few industrial towns. By the time I got to 
Yorkshire, which is very education-minded, I found that I was some- 
what behind in school. I was good in English and literature and 
terribly bad at all practical things, like math; science was a closed book, 
but I find that I've become rather interested in it now and can under- 
stand it. I was good at all theatricals, won a dramatic-reading prize 
at the age of fourteen, and was elected a Member of Parliament in a 
mock election held at school. I was the Socialist candidate, of course. 



I was one of those awful children who go and recite poetry at musical 
festivals. I had a fairly sunny disposition and was quite personable and 
probably a bit spoiled and rather horrid. I suppose I recited quite well. 
From the age of eight or nine, I knew I was going to be an actor. I 
never considered being anything else. I didn't know how I would do 
it, but I knew I would. It was a marvellous feeling to stand up on the 
stage and do things while people watched you. My parents always 
encouraged me. They had me attend classes in voice production at 
two guineas a term, which they could ill afford. At the musical festival 
that was put on each year by the town authorities, there would be 
competitions in categories like Verse Speaking for Boys Ages Seven 
to Nine, and I'd often win the silver medal for my category. To this 
day, my mother has a drawerful of my medals. The first part I played 
was Caesar in "Caesar and Cleopatra/' at Ecclesfield. I was fourteen. 
I would have been a very good child actor, I'm horrified to say. Then 
I lost the knack of naturalness that a good child actor must have. I 
became too much interested in posing and in making my voice sound 

We never lived near a theatre when I was a child. Probably the first 
theatrical performance I ever saw was a local production of a "Miss 
Hook of Holland" sort of thing. My father took me to the repertory 
theatre in Sheffield and also to some plays in London. When we went 
to the Sadler's Wells Theatre, which had been an eighteenth-century 
music hall, we sat right up in the gods* gallery. The thing that 
impressed me most as a young boy was seeing a production of "Ham- 
let," in 1930. I think it was at the Old Vic, where John Gielgud 
played "Hamlet" for the first time in 1930, but I'm not sure it was. I 
went with my father. I had never seen a professional Shakespearean 
production before. It was all wildly exciting. It was so lovely kind of a 
wild dream. London itself was so exciting. It was all so foreign, so far 
removed from my life. My father and I usually travelled to London on 
an early-morning train, on free train passes my father got from the rail- 
way. We'd go round the big shops and look at everything, although toe 
didn't buy much, and once we had lunch at the roof restaurant of a big 
shop, Derry & Toms. After that, we might go to Mme. Tussaud's or 
to the British Museum. The first performance of an individual actor 
that I remember clearly was that of Wilfrid Lawson in J. B. Priestley's 
play "I Have Been Here Before/' in 1937. It was one of those Priestley 



time plays, in which it turns out that everyone has been there before 
a quite interesting play. I was eighteen and went to London alone, 
sitting in the gods', as usual, and I was quite overwhelmed by Wilfrid 
Lawson's playing of the lead, a businessman. Wilfrid Lawson is over 
sixty now, and is a great actor, really, who has become a hero to the 
younger generation of actors, because he has never been allied with the 
Establishment. In 1953, he made a comeback, after some time out of 
the picture, with a mammoth performance in Strindberg's "The 
Father" that set everybody's eyes aflame. He's an interesting figure a 
kind of outsider figure, actually. 

My background was strongly Methodist, and I wasn't allowed to go 
to certain films as a young child, and there were no cinemas in the 
country. I remember seeing a few Chaplin films, including "The Gold 
Rush." My father wanted to take me to that one, and for some reason 
I didn't want to go, and was dragged off screaming to see it. I thought 
it was marvellous when I did see it, of course, and remember vividly 
the scene in the house on the cliff. My father gave it high praise by 
saying "Quite good/' In my early teens, when the family moved near 
Sheffield, I became a mad cinemagoer. The American movies of the 
early thirties, in particular, had a very strong effect on me. I used to 
devour the gangster ones and the prison ones. In the thirties, I was 
very much impressed by Hollywood actors like Edward G. Robinson 
and Thomas Mitchell, but I didn't really appreciate them until later. 
Actually, I have been influenced very little by most other actors, but 
James Cagney was quite an influence on me. I was terribly impressed 
by his relaxation his habit of standing in a relaxed way. I'm a great 
believer in relaxation and the necessity for it in acting. When I be- 
come tense, I'm at my worst. If I'm having difficulty in a part, my 
toes tense up and I clasp my hands. If I'm able to relax to start with, 
then I can create whatever tension I need for my part. Before a per- 
formance, I try to empty myself of all tension. Then one is there and 
one is not afraid to be there. One uses body and mind for the task 
ahead. There are some actors who believe that they so envelop them- 
selves in their part that they deny themselves completely. For me, it's 
a matter of the two things' coming together myself in the part, and 
the part in myself. Then, there are some actors who use only themselves 
in a part. That kind of acting is a different thing entirely. It has its 
place, but I wouldn't want to do it. The actor who uses himself is 



relying on tricks of his own personality vocal tricks or raising an 
eyebrow that always produce certain effects and that have been de- 
veloped over the years but essentially are still him. Tricks are different 
from style. There are parts of Olivier's acting and I happen to think 
he is the best actor in the Western world that are uniquely him. 
He has great style, and I admire style, but he always plays the part. 
There's a great difference between exploitation of an actor's person- 
ality and individual style. An actor has almost as much right to style as 
a painter. The three actors who have impressed me most in my life, 
and all In different ways, are Nikolai Cherkassov, the Russian actor 
who plays the title roles in "Alexander Nevsky" and "Ivan the 
Terrible/' Parts I and II (all directed by Sergei Eisenstein); Wilfrid 
Lawson, who combines the best of the old and the new; and 
Olivier. The important thing about actors in their art and I per- 
sonally think that at its best it is an art is that they do use themseves 
and only themselves, one way or another. You use your own soul. You 
are absolutely naked on the stage. That is what is so difficult and so 
exciting at the same time. One can often see a few moments when act- 
ing becomes an art, but rarely does one see an over-all performance that 
is art. It depends on so many outside factors, including parts offered 
and parts played. A chap might go on playing light comedy in the 
West End for years, and then perhaps, if he was offered the right part, 
he might have an opportunity to use his talent in an entirely new and 
powerful way. An actor can't fully develop himself without a series 
of first-class parts that are as demanding as possible. 

I left school with a year to go, because I became fed up with the 
difficulty of commuting from Conisborough to Ecclesfield about an 
hour's ride on the train. I wanted to go to London and attend the 
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art an institution I had known about 
since I was twelve, when Cyril Maude, who was a friend of an acquaint- 
ance of my father's, and who was associated with the Academy, sug- 
gested and arranged an audition. At the audition, I recited a long pas- 
sage from "King John," in which I played two parts the boy Arthur 
and Hubert de Burgh, for whose speeches I used a deep voice. It was 
quite absurd, because they didn't take children in the Academy. They 
just patted me on the head and told me to come back later. Which I 
did five years later, when I auditioned for the one scholarship avail- 
able that paid fees and maintenance, so that I could afford to go there. 



I didn't get it. That meant that I had to find a job. I sat down and 
wrote hundreds of letters to repertory companies and theatres, and 
went round to all the theatres I could. Employment wasn't easy to come 
by in those- days. I couldn't get a job in the theatre, so I spent the next 
year and a half as a railway clerk at my father's station and then, for 
about a year, was in charge of my own little station, at Swinton, where 
I sold tickets and did all the accounts. Finally, I got an answer 
to one of my letters offering me a job as assistant stage manager in a 
popular resort area on Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, at thirty 
shillings a week about seven and a half dollars which was enough 
for me to live on. I jumped at it. My board and lodging cost only 
twenty-five shillings a week, and after a few weeks the stage manager 
left and I was promoted to his job and given a rise of five shillings a 
week. That was in May of 1939. I had never been so happy. I really 
thought I had arrived. It was my dream come true. I was very good as 
stage manager, because I had done two and a half years as a clerk and 
was very systematic and could type. And I played tiny parts and also 
did general dogsbody took care of washing up the teacups. We did a 
different play every week, for an audience of holidaymakers and local 
people. My first part was as Hareton Earnshaw in "Wuthering 
Heights," that May, and I was probably all right, as it was a 
Yorkshire part. I still had an accent. By this time, I thought I 
spoke quite beautifully, but one night, in my digs, which I shared 
with a fellow who had gone to public school and had the right 
very right kind of accent, this chap told me I was limited as an 
actor, because, with my accent, I could play only North Country 
parts. I then realized for the first time that I would have to learn to 
speak like a proper gent. Actually, I have a slight North Country accent 
to this day. Dialect has always been such a terrible problem in the 
British theatre. It's kept many talented actors out, because they didn't 
sound as though they'd gone to public school, and until just recently 
most plays were about proper gents who had gone to public school. 
I stayed on Jersey until the Second World War broke out. During 
what was then called the "phony war," all the theatres in the 
Channel Islands were closed down for fear of bombardment, and a 
good many of them at home. I was very politically conscious in 
those days, and considered myself a pacifist. Gradually a few theatres 
opened, and I found another job in a tiny repertory club in 



Plymouth, where I played a variety of parts because the company 
was small. I played ttie villain in "Gaslight/' and I played in a 
number of light comedies, for which I put gray streaks in my hair and 
wore a toothbrush mustache to make myself look distinguished. I had 
registered as a conscientious objector, and while I was waiting to be 
sent to prison or to an agricultural camp, I answered an advertisement 
in the newspaper The Stage, which was the way to get employment in 
those days. The ads usually read, "WANTED: ARTISTS ALL LINES TO 
REHEARSE MONDAY WEEK." So you sent photographs and you ex- 
aggerated particulars of your experience. I got a job with a repertory 
theatre in Workington, Cumberland, which put on two plays a 
week for six performances each. I played character parts, like a 
prince in "The Midnight Wedding," an Edwardian play, in which I 
was called upon to say, "When a man has no proof that his father was 
his mother's husband, he is called ... a bastard!" From there, after my 
investigation by the tribunal for the examination of conscientious 
objectors, I was sent to work as a lumberjack in the Lake District, 
near Workington. After six months, I changed my mind about 
being a conscientious objector, partly because I found that the others 
in the camp were so callous in their attitude toward the war, and also 
because by then I had decided that the idea was absurd. After all, I 
had been strongly anti-Fascist since the Spanish Civil War. In 1941, I 
enlisted in the R.A.F., and for two years I flew in bombers as a wireless 
operator. I was shot down over France, parachuted to earth, and spent 
the next year in a prison camp in northern Germany. It wasn't too 
bad there. Mostly, the camp was made up of Americans. We had a 
theatre of sorts. The British senior officers insisted that we put on light 
comedy, and so mostly we did "Hay Fever" and variety shows and 
things like that, but I did play in a production of "The Petrified 
Forest/' taking the part of Alan Squier, the part originally played by 
Leslie Howard. After being released, I spent six months at a re- 
habilitation camp, a former R.A.F. station at Wolverhanipton, because 
I was supposed to be suffering from malnutrition. 

In June, 1946, while I was waiting to be demobilized, I heard that 
Peter Brook, the director, was holding auditions for "The Brothers 
Karamazov," adapted by and starring Alec Guinness. I walked in, read 
some lines, and was engaged for a tiny part, and then got the much 
bigger part of Mavriky a very showy little part, very flashy at seven 


pounds a week. It was exciting to get back to the theatre after more 
than five years. I greatly admired Guinness, and loved watching him in 
his part Mitya, the elder soldier brother. Guinness is remarkably easy 
to work with. He gives such a great deal, and he certainly acts with 
you. On the pre-London tour, I unfortunately came down with the 
measles, and so I missed the opening in London, but I joined the 
company in London a week later and played for five weeks. After that, 
Brook asked me to appear at the Arts Theatre, in "Vicious Circle" 
the English title of the Jean-Paul Sartre play that was called "No 
Exit" in America. I went on to play in a verse play, Gilbert Horobin's 
"Tangent/* and then, with Christmas coming and no money in the 
bank, I took the part of the pirate Starkey in a rehash of "Peter 
Pan," in London. I played it for six months, and I hated it. After 
that closed, I was being thought of for parts in London, but I 
couldn't afford to sit around waiting, so I went up to Perth, in Scot- 
land, and acted in a repertory theatre there for a year. Then, in 
1948, I joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, where I stayed 
for almost two years. By now I had acquired class as an actor, 
and I joined the Bristol Old Vic Company, a permanent repertory 
company attached to the London Old Vic. We worked in the Theatre 
Royal in Bristol, a beautiful old theatre, built in the eighteenth 
century. These were my real years of training. I had ample opportunity 
to play all sorts of parts, in both classics and modern plays. In Septem- 
ber of 1951, the Festival of Britain year, I played in "Saint's Day," by 
John Whiting, who to my mind is one of the best playwrights in 
England today. The New Wave in England arrived with John Osborne 
and Arnold Wesker, and their plays of social realism, but Whiting's 
play "Saint's Day" is, in my opinion, one of the two best plays to come 
out of England in recent years. The other one is "The Caretaker," in 
which I played the part of Davies, the old, discontented, obsessed 
tramp, for fourteen months in England and then after making a film 
on Broadway for five months. "Saint's Day" is a most important play, 
but the critics couldn't understand it, and so vented their baffled fury on 
it. It's about a distinguished writer in his old age probably his dotage 
who has been neglected by the Establishment but is finally about to 
be honored on his birthday by a visit from a very successful middle- 
aged poet, who arrives carrying a presentation copy of the old writer's 
poems. He praises the old man and his work, but meanwhile some 



soldiers in a camp nearby have deserted. The writer and his daughter 
and her husband are warned by the local parson the part I played 
that the soldiers are on a rampage. The deserters arrive at the house, 
ally themselves with the poet, and hang the old man. It is a play of deep 
religious and philosophical significance, and it is tremendously dra- 
matic. When I acted in it, it was very important to me to play out the 
character on the stage. Ordinarily, though, I'm not involved, while 
acting, in what the deeper meaning may be. If you dwell on the deeper 
significance, it seems to me, you're in danger of playing much too big. 

Late in 1951, 1 came to Broadway for the first time, with the Oliviers, 
playing the Major-Domo in "Caesar and Cleopatra" and Euphronius 
in "Antony and Cleopatra." When I returned to London, I was 
in a very, very funny North Country comedy, "Hobson's Choice," 
in which I enjoyed great critical success at the Arts Theatre, where 
I have spent so much of my time. In 1952, though I'm not a serious 
writer, I adapted Robert Louis Stevenson's "Ebb Tide/' and it was 
a great success at the Royal Court. The following year, I accepted 
an invitation to go to Stratford on Avon, which was disastrous for 
me. I was too old to go there on the middle level, which is what I 
did. In a big soap factory like that, I found myself feeling inhibited 
about acting. I couldn't act. It wasn't because I didn't want to play in 
what are loosely called the classics. I did want to. But I felt enveloped, 
swallowed up, completely blotted out. I think I could cope with it now. 
I'm more successful now, and more secure, and have a clearer idea of 
what I want to do. I've always been interested in films. I made my first 
one in 1954, "The Beachcomber," in Technicolor, in which I played 
Tromp, an Indian head clerk a very good part. Working in my first 
film was very frightening. One had so much to think about at once 
the Indian dialect, the completely new medium, all the film things one 
takes in one's stride now, like closeups, looking at a nut on the 
camera instead of at the person one is supposed to be talking to, hit- 
ting marks that are used to determine the camera's focus on actors, 
and, most bewildering of all, the lack of rehearsal. 

In 1955, I played in a stage production of Pirandello's "The Rules 
of the Game/' at the Arts Theatre, which was a great success. I played 
Leone Gola, which is my favorite part of all time. It calls for a strange, 
bitter sort of comedy. I found the play and my role entirely satisfying 
and wholly engrossing. I'm always very excited about something that 



is neither clearly tragic nor clearly comic in the theatre, particularly 
and as Leone, a very sophisticated, learned, and rich middle-aged 
Italian who is a marvellous talker, I had a very interesting oppor- 
tunity to go from bitter comedy to tragedy. Shallow, but tragedy none- 
theless. I went on to play the Dauphin in "The Lark" and the 
Cockney clerk one of the best comedy parts of all in a revival of 
"Misalliance." I kept getting marvellous notices, but never made any 
money. At Stratford, where I shared a dressing room with Robert 
Shaw, and where we'd hear people walk up and down the corridor 
visiting other people, while nobody came to visit us, we had a self- 
kidding routine. I would say, "I'm the most successful club-theatre 
actor in London." Then Robert would say, "Let's get the notices out!" 
And he would solemnly read Kenneth Tynan's notice of "The Mer- 
chant of Venice" saying, "I cannot imagine what Donald Pleasence was 
trying to make of Launcelot Gobbo, who is not, I suggest, an organ- 
grinder's monkey," It's very difficult to know when you're successful 
as an actor. I used to say when I was twenty, "If I'm not successful by 
thirty, I'll do something else." Then the war came, and I was able to 
put the limit at thirty-five, because I had lost five years. Then I was 
noticed, and though I got some marvellous notices, I still didn't know 
if I was knocking my head against a brick wall. In my country, I'm now 
very successful in the sense that I can earn a good living. I'm not, how- 
ever, completely accepted by the Establishment as a leading actor. 
Most of the time, I have a fairly placid temperament for an actor, but 
there are weeks when I feel frightfully insecure. 

In our world of entertainment, there is no set plan that an actor 
can follow. When I was very young, my brightest ambition was to 
play Hamlet at the Old Vic. Now a young actor's brightest ambition 
is to play the lead, wearing dungarees, in a New Wave play at the 
Royal Court. Shakespeare is a bit old-fashioned in England now. But 
he will come back. He's such a good playwright, after all. Back when 
I was dreamy-eyed, what I wanted most was to play a classical part. 
Now it's all a hodgepodge. I am loosely involved in what is called the 
new school, but we have no organization theatre as it exists in Con- 
tinental Europe, where you can enter a company and stay for life. 
One thinks enviously about it when one has dependents and is pound- 
ing up and down the carpet thinking about how to pay the grocery 
bill By and large, the Continental way must be preferable. Still, the 



situation is better in England, where we have repertory companies in 
the provinces, than it is in America, where it must be absolute murder. 
In England, the only way you can get what you want is to be successful 
first; then you can do the things you want to do. Take Paul Scofield, 
for instance. He is a brilliant, marvellous actor. He's extremely per- 
sonable, and he has a beautiful voice and a wonderful, remarkably 
relaxed presence. He was accepted very early in life as a leading actor, 
and he's always had a solid life stretching before him. He is, un- 
fortunately, an exception. Generally speaking, the pattern of one's 
career changes from day to day. One day I am a character actor with a 
background in the provinces, where I usually played leading parts; 
the next day I am making a living by working in films; the day after 
that I am simply one of the best-known television actors in England. 
That happened in the late fifties. Now, if I meet an English housewife 
on the street, she'll say, "Oh, the man on the telly!"" She doesn't have 
the faintest knowledge of me as a stage actor or of the play "The 
Caretaker." The actor *s worlds are as sharply divided as that. 

For four years before I went into "The Caretaker," I wouldn't act 
on the stage at all, because I couldn't find anything I really wanted 
to do. I did an enormous amount of work in television, for which the 
subject matter is quite good in England. Harold Pinter, author of 
"The Caretaker," writes original television plays. The programs are 
not controlled by the sponsors, as they are in America; the sponsors 
have no connection with what is being written. It's possible to do quite 
a lot of good work in television, and you don't have to play down to 
the audience, I've never enjoyed acting. It's more of a compulsive 
thing. I alternate between being terrified and being bored, and yet 
there's a curious excitement in it the whole time. Television, especially 
if it's being done live, is quite terrifying. I regard acting, in a sense, as 
a job, pretty much like being a bank clerk. On the other hand, I always 
try to do my best. When I was very young, and very bad as an actor, 
I could find delight in showing off. As I got better, I began to see 
things more objectively. To play a part like the one in "The Caretaker" 
and to be an individual success is still exciting. You do have a wonder- 
ful mounting feeling when you've got a marvellous part and you can 
tell that the audience likes it "and likes you in it. Then you do begin to 
walk on air. It's almost as though the thing was running away with 
you. There are times, however, when what you take for genuine erno- 



tion may just be the result of your own impact on the audience. Even 
then, though, the emotion is a vivid one, and can be used onstage for 
all kinds of effects. I have no theory about acting, no method, no way, 
and nobody has ever taught me a way. If somebody could teach me how 
to achieve a certain look, I suppose it would be nice. As it is, I try to 
know what my character would do in any circumstances, and whilst 
I'm onstage I'm totally immersed in the part. But I am never lost in it. 
You must constantly go back to first principles. If you find you 
achieve an effect with a certain gesture or intonation or expression, 
you nevertheless try to do something fresh the very next night. If some- 
body onstage says a line that is not in the play, you ought to know how 
to reply. I try to achieve a sort of physical and mental transfiguration, 
and go on from there. When I first read a part, I don't think of how I 
will look in it. At least, I try not to. These things come out of re- 
hearsals. I plunge right in, but that's only at the beginning. I try to 
find a clear line, and then work on the ornamentation. A lot of actors 
work from ornamentation back especially film actors. And in weekly 
repertory we used to have a joke that went, "Is it the week for the 
mustache?" I hate makeup, putting on wigs and beards, and, whenever 
possible, I like to grow my own. What is dangerous for an actor is 
getting an exact physical image and then deciding, I want to look 
like So-and-So in this part. I don't go to people for my feelings about 
a part. I always go to animals and birds. For the part of the old, sus- 
picious tramp in "The Caretaker," I thought of myself as an alley cat. 
There was quite a lot of comment on my performance in "The 
Caretaker/' and people asked me how I managed to get a look of 
absolute desperation and terror in my eyes when the old man finally 
realizes that he is going to be chucked out of the house. The old man 
at this point comes as near as possible to facing up to himself; he 
knows it is curtains for him. That look in the eyes arose from sheer 
intensity of emotion. It arose from very powerful feeling physical 
exertion, really that left me absolutely exhausted at the end. I 
think I managed to achieve something three nights out of the week. 
One can come halfway to doing what one is trying to do, provided one 
is willing to tear one's guts out. Sometimes the whole thing was utterly 
real to me, even after I'd played it for a year and a half. At other times, 
it wasn't, and then I had to work all the harder to do it. 



1 never go to see plays. I want to be on the stage, not 
in the audience. 

I was born on February 13, 1942, in New York City, as Carole Jones. 
I have a younger brother, Daniel, who is studying to become a 
photographer. My father, Cyril Jones, is from Ireland, and my mother 
is from New England. I'm a mixture of Irish, English, Scotch, Welsh, 
German, and American Indian. Both of my maternal grandparents had 
Indian blood Connecticut variety. My parents separated when I was 
a small child. Neither of them has ever had any connection with show 
business; my mother went to work as a waitress. I was never in a school 
play. I went to fourteen schools professional and parochial schools, 
all over the Bronx before graduating, in 1959, from the School 
for Young Professionals. When I was ten, I started working as a 
photographer's model to supplement my mother's earnings as a 
waitress. Between us, we managed to support the family. Tuesday 
Weld and Sandra Dee were also child models in New York at 



that time, and the three of us often competed, as fairly close friends, for 
the same modelling jobs. I liked modelling. If I hadn't, I would have 
quit. I don't do many things I don't want to do. As a child, I had a very 
active imagination. When I was five, I saw the movie of "The Wizard 
of Oz" and became hysterical over it, and about the same time, seeing 
"King Kong," I nearly died. I yelled and screamed, and upset the 
audience so much that I had to be taken out of the place. When I 
was sixteen, and was playing in "Blue Denim," by James Leo Herlihy 
and William Noble, on the New York stage, every time I did the part 
about going for an abortion I'd feel sick for hours afterward. I started 
acting for television soon after I started modelling. The agency I 
worked for would get calls from television producers, and they would- 
send me out to act in television exactly as they sent me out to model. 
I was learning every minute, not only about acting but about life. I've 
never taken a lesson in acting. The good acting schools don't take 
children under eighteen. They think that children don't need to learn 
to act, and they're right. Children act all the time. Children take the 
most outrageous liberties with the truth and believe in what they say 
and do. All that children can learn about acting is voice projection 
and how to take direction. My first roles in television were bits or walk- 
ons. Television plays were all done live at the time I started. I had to 
learn to change makeup, clothes, and manner, and to run from one 
set to another, in a matter of minutes. Later on, when I began making 
movies, I had days in which to do the same thing. 

I started taking ballet lessons when I was seven, for two hours a 
week, after school. I still try to take lessons now. Dancing is a body 
conditioner. If you're accustomed to dancing and then give it up, 
you find yourself getting flabby. Dancing helps keep you flexible 
for acting. It helps, for example, if you have to walk like a child, 
or like a tomboy, which was the kind of part I played in the 
movie "The Last Sunset." By the time I was eleven, I was getting 
a lot of television work to do, and I was so busy that my mother 
gave up working daytimes in order to be with me. When the tele- 
vision roles started coming in, I thought, I'm in it anyway, so why not 
try to be the best and get leading roles? It was all very time-consuming. 
Out of fifty readings, I would get ten small parts. Whenever I was 
afraid I wouldn't get a part I wanted, I'd think, Well, it's in the lap of 
the gods, and the chances are ten to one against me anyway. All 



through school, I was a B student and could have been an A student 
very easily if I'd worked at it. But I didn't like school. I loved history, 
and still love it hearing about it from others or reading about it 
but in history class it was only a matter of giving a date when I was 
asked about an event, or an event when I was asked about a date. I 
wanted to know about the way life used to be. I'm a compulsive reader. 
As a child, I read everything. I didn't care for "The Bobbsey Twins" 
and that kind of thing, even though they were big favorites with the 
other kids. When I discovered the Encyclopaedia Britannica, I began 
to devour it. 

As a model, I worked under the name of Carolyn Lee. When I was 
thirteen, I got a job in the road-company production of Jerome 
Chodorov's and Joseph Fields' "Anniversary Waltz/' and when I ap- 
plied for membership in Actors' Equity, they already had a Carolyn 
Lee, so I solved the problem by keeping the same name but dividing it 
up as Carol Lyn-lee, or Carol Lynley. When I was twelve and had been 
doing walk-ons and bits for two years, I tried out for the part of Alice in 
"Alice in Wonderland" for the "Kraft Television Theatre," one of the 
bigger shows on television. It was while I was trying out for the role 
that I first realized I seriously wanted to become an actress. While I 
was reading for Alice, I suddenly began to understand what great 
enjoyment one could get out of acting. Up to that point, I'd been 
most interested in becoming a ballerina, even though I knew how hard 
dancers worked and how comparatively low their pay was. But I'd 
thought I might combine dancing with doing choreography. My 
mother, who no longer works and is now a night student at C.C.N.Y., 
was then still working part time as a waitress, and I was worried about 
making money. There was something more than that in my new inter- 
est in acting, though. The producer and, for this show, the director 
Murray Holland had me read four times for the role of Alice. He 
wanted me to have it, but finally realized I just wasn't experienced 
enough to play it. So I wound up playing a page and the Mock 
Turtle. Robin Morgan got the part of Alice, and went on to play one 
of the leads in the "I Remember Mama" series. But I had learned 
about the joy that can come from creating a character as an actress and 
trying to say something of your own as well as what the author wants 
to say. Also, I enjoyed playing the Mock Turtle. It was fun. In "An- 
niversary Waltz," we played Cincinnati, Detroit, and Chicago. I wasn't 



too impressed with what I was doing. Also, I didn't like those cities. 
All I would do was sleep and wait to go onstage. 

When I was fifteen, I got my first Broadway role. It was the part of 
the granddaughter of Sybil Thorndike in Graham Greene's "The 
Potting Shed/' I read for the role several times before I got it. When 
I knew I had it, I decided definitely not only to be an actress but to 
be a good actress. I was still considered a child actress, but I was 
working in a play that had dimensions quite different from anything 
I'd ever been connected with before. The other members of the cast 
were all fine actors, and we had a fine director, Carmen Capalbo. I 
was terribly excited about having the part and about playing with 
people who were so professional and so experienced. I loved it all, but 
I also realized my own shortcomings. I didn't even know if I could be 
heard by the audience. I learned so much in that play. I played the part 
for the run of the play a hundred and forty-three performances and 
during that time I really felt that I was the granddaughter. From being 
in television plays, I'd had a tendency to be aware only of the character 
I myself was playing. In a play, you are forced to communicate with the 
others; they are right there. You are actually talking to the person 
you address, I also learned how to project my voice. And I absorbed an 
awful lot from the others about acting technique. I think my way of 
acting is a natural one like the way children act, a kind of natural 
pretending. I lose all awareness of the audience when I'm in a play. 
And I never try to imitate any other actress. The worst thing in the 
world is imitation. When you see actors doing impersonations of other 
actors, you realize that nothing is as good as the original. 

Six months after "The Potting Shed" closed, I got my first movie 
role Shenandoe, in Walt Disney's "The Light in the Forest.'* I be- 
gan to learn how to do things more slowly than I'd done them in 
television. I also began to want to do things for myself that would 
ordinarily be done for me, like makeup. In Hollywood, they have a 
whole department to make you up, but I make myself up. I got used 
to putting on my own makeup for the stage and for modelling, and 
to arranging my own hair, too, so I asked the Disney people if I could 
do my own makeup, and they let me. For a movie, I take an hour and 
a half to apply my makeup, compared to twenty minutes for the stage 
and fifteen for modelling. In putting on movie makeup, I found I 
could do certain things that would contribute to the role, like putting 



dark circles under my eyes. My face is so young and smooth that some- 
times It just looks flat under the movie lights and doesn't show enough 
character, so I learned to do little things with an eyebrow pencil and to 
arrange my hair in different ways to make the character I was playing 
come more alive. If your makeup isn't on just right for movies in 
Technicolor, you can come out looking blue, so it demands a lot of 
attention. It's an additional burden doing your own, but I think it's 
well worth it. It helps me. I look at myself in the mirror for so long 
that I begin to get a lot of ideas about the girl I'm playing and what 
she's like. 

About the only preparation I need for a role is to believe in it. I 
find that if I believe in it the audience will believe in it. It's easy for 
me to believe in a part. I suppose it might be better if I questioned the 
role more. I practically always believe I am the person I'm playing. 
Even playing the writer in "Return to Peyton Place," though I didn't 
understand what I was doing, I felt natural in the part. I didn't have 
to be a writer to play one; I could pretend I was one. I didn't believe 
In the whole movie. I didn't believe in the situations or in the people. 
In the middle of making the picture, I got married, so I look back on 
the picture through a sort of haze. My husband is Mike Selsman, a 
Hollywood public-relations man. He is five years older than I am. We 
were married on December 30, 1960. We live in an apartment in Los 
Angeles but are planning to move into a house. Mike is Jewish, and I 
had become interested in Judaism years before, but I did not become 
Jewish when I was married. Mike is the best thing that has ever hap- 
pened to me. While I was making "Return to Peyton Place," Mike and 
I were trying to get married quietly, but something always happened to 
create a lot of noise around us. The way I remember that movie is: The 
day of my scene with Tuesday Weld was the day of my wedding. I 
was married at nine-fifteen in the morning in Newhall, California, 
and then I went back to the set and did the scene with Tuesday twenty- 
two times. 

When I made my next movie, "The Last Sunset/' with Kirk Doug- 
las, I learned the terrible hardships that must sometimes be endured in 
acting. In "Return to Peyton Place," I had learned about pressure, 
because of the way, while I was trying to get married, I was constantly 
split between reality and playing the role. We made "The Last Sun- 
set" on location in a small Mexican town. Together with the rest of 



the company, I got the local intestinal infection, and we played in 
hundred-and-ten-degree heat and constantly had to protect ourselves 
against baby tornadoes. I'd be playing a scene with Kirk Douglas when 
someone would suddenly push me to the ground, and then I'd learn 
that a tornado had passed over us. The movie company didn't take 
caterers along, and in order to get something to eat at our hotel, I had 
to learn to speak Spanish. I learned enough in a month for basic con- 
versation. My part in the movie was that of a sixteen-year-old girl 
travelling through the West with her widowed mother and a herd of 
cattle. I didn't believe in this role, really, so I underplayed it. It was 
the best I could do, and I think it added a touch of reality to the role. 
I had to do hard things, like riding among a thousand head of cattle, 
and leading mules from the back of a horse. What I remember most 
vividly about "The Last Sunset" is the smell of the cattle. But playing 
in that movie helped me adjust to my marriage. Because the movie, 
like most movies, was made in bits and pieces, I began to find it easier 
to go from being the movie character to being myself. After all, I can't 
go on being the character when I come home after a hard day's work. 
I don't think my husband would like it. It's hard, though, to let go of 
anybody I play. I really get into the part. I'm not much of a watcher 
of anyone or anything. I hate to watch. I have to participate. 

I'm more in command of myself now as an actress than I was when 
I was fifteen. When you're more in command of yourself, it's easier to 
create a character. Just the same, acting is inborn. It's instinctive. It 
can't be learned. No girl can just decide to become an actress the way 
she might decide to learn to type. An actress is really an entertainer 
someone who can make people forget their worries for a while. But 
I act for myself. Through acting I can experience many things that 
otherwise I'd be able to experience only through my imagination. And 
I enjoy it. I enjoy learning things. In "Blue Denim," I learned that 
even if something terrible happens to you it isn't the end of the 
world. You survive. And working with different kinds of actors is edu- 
cational. The male lead in the movie version of "Blue Denim," Bran- 
don de Wilde, was a star. He had been a child star, and he'd had more 
experience than I'd had as a child actor. But I'd had more experience 
as an adult actress, so I felt I could meet him on his own ground, in 
spite of his star billing. In mediocre roles, I can bring a lot of inven- 
tion to the character. If a character is just true-blue and good well, I 



know no one in the world is like her. I try to show that she's not that 
good, even if it's only by putting circles under my eyes. I try to make 
the best of every role, and if it's hopeless, at least I try to make a dif- 
ferent approach to it. In the movie "Holiday for Lovers/' I played 
Betsy Dean, the younger of two sisters, who was so adorable, so good, 
that no one could understand her. So I'd throw away a line here and 
emphasize a line there when it was least expected. Actually, there 
sometimes isn't much you can do, especially in a movie. In "Return to 
Peyton Place/' I had a scene in a New York hotel room in which I 
was supposed to be looking out the window, dressed in a slip, when 
my editor called on the phone. I suggested that instead of looking out 
the window, I take a cigarette in a long holder and swagger hippily 
toward the mirror. The director let me do it my way, and afterward 
they were convinced I was another Sarah Bernhardt, which, of course, 
I'm not. I just wanted to do something to make that writer I was play- 
ing seem not so cardboard. Acting has many negative aspects. I don't 
like being stared at at parties. I'm petrified of crowds. But I find that 
when I'm living in New York, and I get on the subway, if I put on dark 
glasses and take off my makeup I'm not recognized. I'm free to do my 
marketing. Acting isn't easy. Being a good actress is as difficult as being 
a good waitress, but the pay is better. 



The actor reminds people of the poetry of being 

I was born on April 14, 1925, in Westhampton, Long Island. My full 
name is Rodney Stephen Steiger, and I'm an only child. As far as 
I know, I've never seen my father. My parents were divorced when I 
was about a year old. They had worked together as a song-and-dance 
team in roadhouse shows. I have no idea what my father looks like, 
and I wouldn't recognize him if we were in the same room. My 
background is French, Scotch, and German, and I was brought up 
as a Lutheran. After I was grown, my mother remarried. Whenever 
I was in a play or a movie, she and my stepfather would come to see 
me at least half a dozen times. I grew up in various New Jersey 
towns Irvington, Bloomfield, and Newark, among others where my 
mother did odd salesclerk jobs to support herself and me. In the 
evenings, at home, she would entertain me by singing and accompany- 
ing herself on an upright piano songs like "Roses of Picardy" and 
"Shine On, Harvest Moon." My stage experience in grade school in- 
cluded playing the roles of Santa Glaus and George Washington 
in classroom productions. I attended Newark's West Side High 



School for one year, and then, at the end of 1941, when I was sixteen, 
I managed to enlist in the United States Navy. I served as a torpedo- 
man first class on a destroyer in the South Pacific, and in four years 
I participated in most of the major operations of the Third and 
Fifth Fleets. I loved the Navy. I was stupid enough to think I was 
being heroic. I had always been a popular guy with other guys. I 
was a good softball player in school, and I was the best storyteller 
in my school gang, and the leader. In the Navy, and for some time 
afterward, I was in a very disconnected period of my life. I got along 
fine with the guys, and I didn't worry about anything, but my con- 
nection with the world in general was not clear. As long as I could 
eat and sleep, I didn't think about anything much. 

I got out of the Navy with a medical discharge the day after Japan 
surrendered. I went back to Newark and got a job in the Office of 
Dependents and Beneficiaries, oiling the check-signing machines and 
carrying boxes of checks around the office. I got paid twenty-seven 
dollars and fifty cents a week, take-home pay. After eight months 
of it, I found it tedious. We had a social group in the office that 
put on plays. Somehow or other, I sort of got pushed into playing 
the lead in "Curse You, Jack Dalton." We had a lady director, who 
told me that I should take acting seriously, and that I had four years 
of school coming to me under the G.I. Bill of Rights. For the next 
two years, I studied acting at the New School for Social Research. 
Then I went to the American Theatre Wing, and later was invited 
by Daniel Mann to come to the Actors' Studio. I lived on the G.L 
Bill seventy-five dollars a month, plus thirty per cent for disability. 
In 1947, I got my Equity card and a bit part in "The Trial of Mary 
Dugan," by Bayard Veiller. 

My first real Broadway part was in the Equity Library Theatre 
revival of Clifford Odets* "Night Music," in 1951, in which I played 
the part of a fifty-five-year-old detective. I played in over two hundred 
and fifty live television productions between 1948 and 1953. The 
climactic point was reached in 1953, when I played the title role in 
"Marty/* Then I went on to playing in movies, including "On the 
Waterfront/' "Teresa," "The Big Knife," "The Harder They Fall," 
"Cry Terror," "Al Capone," and "Oklahoma!" In 1959, I played the 
role of the Bandit in the Broadway production of "Rashomon," with 
Claire Bloom, Oscar Homolka, and Akim Tamiroff. If an actor 



stays on one level and doesn't challenge himself constantly, he will 
die. That's why I was eager to do "Rashomon," I like to be a gang- 
ster, then play in a Western, then go to Shakespeare. I look to the 
public to find out how I am in a part. I have great respect for the 
public. In playing for it, I've been lucky in my selection of parts. 

There's no one way of acting. A lot of actors present rehearsals, not 
performances. They are imitating, not creating. So their acting looks 
like a bad suit of clothes. Then, a lot of young actors think they're 
doing Method acting when all they're doing is murdering it. Method 
is anything that gets you involved personally in the part, so that 
you can communicate in human terms with the audience. The essence 
of any art is communication. The need of the actor is to say hello 
to the audience. I get irritated with some audiences the same as I do 
with some people, but I haven't lost my fakh in their intelligence. 
Otherwise, I'd be bouncing a ball off a brick wall. The best actors 
I know are those who try to talk to the audience, make the audience 
feel and discover feelings actors who understand their audience and 
excite it. I find that actors of this kind will be the same offstage as 
on; they will attempt to do the same thing with anybody. 

Actors may be the purest of all artists, because we attempt to reach 
other people, and to give something to other people through our- 
selves only. The painter can lean on his canvas, the musician on his 
violin or piano. The actor has no instrument but himself. The actor 
is different from other artists inasmuch as his material is intangible. 
I like to think of the art of acting as an immediate reward and an 
immediate death. The greater the moment on the stage, the longer 
the mourning. How the actor achieves his inspired moments is only 
about three-fourths known; one-fourth is completely unknown. That's 
one of the things that keep acting so exciting and so uncertain. I've 
become interested in the way a man can live so beautifully in the 
fantasy of his art even when he can hardly live at all in the reality 
of his own life. The actor's highest moments come when his instincts 
and his intellect meet and together communicate something to some- 
one else. No word means exactly the same thing to every person; an 
actor must say what the word means to him. If he doesn't know, he 
must find out, or die in a puddle of narcissism. I believe in what I 
do. In the social structure that exists today, it's so difficult for a person 
to work at what he believes in and loves and still make a living. If 



you want to act for no other reason than to be among the happy few 
who are able to be beautiful in their art, then learn to be honest 
with yourself and act. For the first twenty-one years of my life, I never 
thought of actors as being anything but golden people from another 
world; I didn't know they were really alive. When I was told that 
people study acting, it came as a great surprise to me. I have my own 
credo for acting. I believe the actor can, through the medium of 
acting, exchange his discoveries about himself, and his beliefs, with his 
fellow-man. I believe that any actor who disregards this responsibility, 
that of truthfully attempting to communicate, and "acts for a living/' 
ceases to exist as a creative artist. I know that all of us fail over and 
over again when we attempt to communicate, but we must always 
insist on attempting it. If an actor has one inspired moment in a 
performance, I'd say he's good. If he has two inspired moments, he's 
great. If he has none, he's going to bore himself to death. The actor 
really lives for those inspired moments. 

I enjoy working in television and in movies as much as I do in the 
theatre. Each medium has its drawbacks. Live television is the most 
difficult to do, because you have all the pressure of an opening night 
in the theatre, and no chance to correct or change what you do. 
An actor can develop tremendously in live television if he has some 
background and training. I used to do two or three shows a month, 
with only five days of rehearsal for a half-hour drama. It was wonder- 
ful training and discipline. Unfortunately, live television plays have 
become a thing of the past. Big money got into television in 1954 and 
flattened it. But live television is still the closest thing to a repertory 
theatre, which is the best kind of training in the development of an 
actor. The essence of playing in a movie is remembering that it's always 
the picture that is important, not the words. In the theatre, as in live 
television, you must hav^ the training to sustain your performance. In 
movies, you can get away with a lot, because you don't have to sus- 
tain your performance for more than two or three minutes at a time. 
If you're only a personality, without talent, and you're photographed 
right, you can look like an actor in the movies, but the beauty of 
humanness is always sacrificed for surface appearances. In New York, 
you're in competition with other actors. In Hollywood, there is always 
the possibility that you may have to compete with anybody who can 
be photographed effectively. Wherever an actor is and whatever he's 



doing, he must maintain his discipline. When your mind is alert, your 
performance is alert. When you're disturbed or tired, your perform- 
ance suffers. That's why 111 never stay in a play for longer than six 
months. There's too much chance that you may start to play it 

The more honest you are in preparing what you're going to present, 
the more honest you are in playing it. There's a great difference in me 
when I'm working. I keep more to myself. I get very intense. For 
the stage, I don't let anybody talk to me for an hour before curtain 
time. I happen to be what I regard as the nervous type. Sometimes 
I play tricks on myself to get myself up to the right level. I might 
come to the theatre early and walk figure eights by myself onstage. 
After the curtain comes down, it takes me an hour and a half or 
two hours to unwind. There's always tremendous tension. The trick 
is to keep interested. If something comes into your mind, your 
discipline says, "Out maybe later." You have a responsibility to 
fulfill at the moment. Once, doing "Rashomon," I was sick with flu, 
with a temperature of a hundred and two, and I did the part on a 
pill, and everything was cockeyed. It took everything I had to stay 
concentrated, but I managed it. For a couple of weeks after that, 
concentration was easy for me. An actor can't base his art on making 
pretty poses. Although there's no one way of acting, you have to 
have talent and you have to be involved. If I had something more 
important, humanly, to do than acting, I would do it. On one 
occasion, during a fight with another actor in "Rashornon," I cut 
his hand and he started to bleed. I looked down and saw another 
human being's blood on my hands, and I thought, This is a childish 
way to make a living. I still think that occasionally, but, fortunately, 
the feeling doesn't last long. 

I don't make decisions on how to play a part. I start off feeling 
wide open to the person I'm playing and to the people I'm playing 
with. I don't like to intellectualize about it. I try to feel my way, I 
try to react as well as act. When I was going to play AJ Capone, I 
read his autobiography and the newspapers of his time. I asked my- 
self, "What did this man want?" I decided he wanted to be respected. 
But there wasn't just one thing that made him be the way he was. 
He was, to me, a showman, an actor. He wanted recognition. Some- 
times my imagination comes into play before I start getting the part, 


sometimes after. Usually, the way it works, I read the script and 
reread it, and somewhere inside me it clicks, and there's an "Oh, yes" 
in a secret place. Sometimes it takes a lot of labor. For one thing, I 
may not always want the world to see me in a certain guise. I play 
a game with myself if I get stuck. I walk through a five-and- ten-cent 
store and associate objects with the part. Say I see a toothbrush; I'll 
think, How does he brush his teeth? For "The Big Knife/' I took a 
walk and saw a silver tiepin with a question mark on it. In my role 
as the producer, I wore it throughout the picture. Only I knew what 
it meant the kid from the other side of the tracks who was always 
asking himself how to get where he wanted to be. One thing I did 
for Al Capone was to take out all small gestures. I played it pretty 
big I wore my coat draped over my shoulders, and my hatbrim 
angled because one thing I felt he wanted was to be big. I wanted 
the man's natural actions to declare themselves. 

One of the troubles with acting is that the more successful you get, 
the more you have to keep an eye on the business aspects of it. I try 
not to forget the source of creativity. I'll listen to anybody who 
wants to talk to me, but after twenty minutes I know I'm going to 
say, "You're entitled to your opinions, but don't exhaust my life." 
When the curtain comes down on a play you're in, there's discipline, 
too, in knowing how to relax. I'm always aware of the danger of 
being an artist of making art all of life instead of an important part 
of life. It's the responsibility of every artist to search for new stimuli. 
You need another person at least one. I wrote a poem when I was 
seventeen or eighteen that expressed the idea that another person, 
in becoming part of oneself, makes one more completely oneself. 
I believe you've got to be human to act. I don't want my personal 
life ever to be one of agony, like John Barrymore's. I was married 
for the first time in 1952, to an actress named Sally Gracie. We were 
together two years and then we were divorced. I was married again in 
1959, to the actress Claire Bloom. We have a daughter, Anna Justine, 
born in 1960. 

All artists have the one quality that is priceless eternal childhood. 
The day I walk onstage and don't feel nervous, I'll know my ego has 
got ahead of my heart. I don't ever want that to happen. I have always 
done some writing, and I still do as much as I can. I believe that 
anybody who has in him one sentence that can mean something to 



somebody else should write it down. I've written two movie scripts. 
One, "In Time of War/' has been sold to Allied Artists. I wrote it 
with Stanley Shpetner, and will star in it. It tells the story of six 
soldiers who are destroyed by the Second World War. The other, 
"The Untold Story/' is not commercial, but I hope to make it anyway. 
The main character in "The Untold Story" is an actor. It takes place 
in Sicily. The theme has to do with my belief that if a man creates 
more beauty than he destroys, you must classify him as good; if he 
destroys more beauty than he creates, you must classify him as evil. 



No matter how great your ambition or how powerful 
your need to create something on the stage, there 
must be a world outside. 

I was born on February 15, 1931, in London. I have a brother, John, 
who is four years younger than I am, and who is one of the youngest 
film editors in London. My father, Edward Bloom, was a managing 
director of several businesses, including a machinery factory. He died 
in 1953. My mother lives in London but spends some time with me and 
my husband, Rod Steiger, and our daughter, Anna Justine, wher- 
ever we happen to be. My mother was one of nine children, and 
all of them were interested one way or another in the theatre. 
My maternal grandparents were lovers of music and of the opera, 
and of the theatre in all its forms. One of my aunts, Mary Grew, 
an actress who now is also a translator of plays from the French and 
German, played leading parts in London in the nineteen-thirties, and 
toured in "Typhoon" with Dennis Nielson-Terry. When I was about 
ten, I came to the United States with my mother and brother to escape 
the blitz. At first, we stayed with an uncle on my father's side in Fort 
Lauderdale, Florida. After a year, we came to New York. The three of 
us lived in one room rented in another family's apartment in Forest 



Hills, on Long Island. I attended Public Schools 3 and 101 in Queens. 
When we had been in Forest Hills fifteen months, my mother became 
ill, and because we rather regretted the whole adventure, we decided 
to go back to England, which by then was no longer threatened by an 
invasion. So we started back on a Portuguese ship, and were stranded 
in Portugal for three glorious months, where we revelled in the warm 
climate and the salt air and the peaceful beaches and the neutral atmos- 
phere of the country. We made it back to England when I was nearly 
twelve. For the next three months, my schooling was a haphazard affair 
two makeshift schools outside London, away from the bombings 
but in 1943 I enrolled, on a scholarship, in the Guildhall School of 
Music and Drama, in London. For the scholarship audition, I did a 
scene from "Saint Joan/' 

I was a very sophisticated, priggish twelve-year-old. In America, I 
had always been the youngest child in my class at school, and had 
fought against getting an American accent. I used to speak in a whis- 
per. I was no beauty, and I was very shy. In Florida, I recognized anti- 
Semitism for the first time, and since I'm Jewish though I have no 
religious affiliation I suppose that increased my standoffishness. I 
suppose I set out to do what minorities generally do prove themselves. 
The first movie I ever saw, as a child, was "Romeo and Juliet," with 
Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard. That same year, I saw Walt 
Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," which I adored. At 
seven, I saw my first play, which was a pantomime "Where the Rain- 
bow Ends/' about St. George and the Dragon. I loved it. Also when I 
was seven, I saw "Robert's Wife," with Edith Evans. I remember how 
Mother and I sat on stools on the pavement, waiting to get into the 
gallery to see it. I remember the curtain call, and wondering why all 
the actors stood in line and bowed. I thought it was silly, and I still 
do. Another thing I saw as a child was a play with men dressed as 
women and playing women's parts. I hated that kind of thing then, 
and I still do. Before we went to America, my mother read "Hamlet" 
to me. I was so petrified of the Ghost that I couldn't sleep and had to 
keep the light on all night By the time I was about eight, my favorite 
play, for some reason, was "Julius Caesar." I suppose I liked all that 
violence. My mother has always been an idealist about the theatre. In 
fact, both of us have always thought the theatre was just too marvellous. 
I do hate the expression "show business." And there's an expression 



used in Hollywood a lot that I loathe, too "selling yourself." I was 
never very good at the whole thing of selling myself. I was quite nasty. 
In England, I always had bad press relations. I sometimes wonder how 
I was able to do anything. When I played Ophelia at Stratford on 
Avon, I used to hate audiences when I'd come out onstage. All the 
ladies In the audience would do this terrible "Sssss-hiss-hissing-isn't- 
she-sweet-sss?" I'd hate them for it. But I was seventeen an age at 
which one would prefer to be a femme fatale. They don't do it any 
more, fortunately, and I'm glad I'm over that period. I do care about 
having an audience. I don't want to play to an empty house. But I'm 
onstage primarily to satisfy myself. 

The Guildhall was a reputable school, and I took acting lessons 
there for about a year. It was all sort of ridiculous elocution and all 
that. The Guildhall School offered to renew my scholarship, but I 
turned it down and went to the Central School of Speech Training 
instead, because they taught more subjects costumes, stage design, 
history of the theatre, and so on. I went there for about a year and 
then got a job at the B.B.C., playing Ann of Oxford Street in a drama- 
tization of Thomas De Quincey's "Confessions of an English Opium- 
Eater." The role was that of a sixteen-year-old tart, and I was 
paid fifteen pounds for one performance. My school was furious about 
my taking such a job and wouldn't let me come back, so I got a job, 
a walk-on, in John Webster's "The White Devil/' produced by Michael 
Benthall and Robert Helpmann, in the West End at the Duchess 
Theatre. It was my first London appearance. At this point, my father 
departed for South Africa to see his sister and to seek his fortune, and 
I had to earn some money. I signed a five-year contract with J. Arthur 
Rank, for twenty-five pounds a week, disliking everything it repre- 
sented. I knew then I didn't like being tied down and having to do 
things I didn't want to do. As things turned out, the only part I ever 
played under the contract was that of an English aristocrat in "The 
Blind Goddess," and I was just terrible. I was most unhappy, and they 
finally released me. In 1948, Benthall and Helpmann held an audi- 
tion for what they said was a small part at Stratford on Avon Memorial 
Theatre. It was really an audition for Ophelia, but I didn't know it at 
the time. If I had, I'd never have been able to do it. I was seventeen, 
and I got the part. I played it for eight months, alternating it with the 
roles of Perdita in "The Winter's Tale," and Blanch in "King John," 



in the second of which, again, I was terrible. I'm always at my very 
worst in a light part, with nothing to hold on to. But I liked playing 
Ophelia. I love those parts where you have to read between the lines 
to find the part. I tried to make Ophelia's mad scene a little less 
flowery. There are fifty possible interpretations of the role. Mine was 
based on my feeling that Ophelia was fifteen or sixteen and was very 
dependent, very high-strung, and that the things that happened to her 
were things she couldn't cope with her father killed, her beloved 
deserting her on the brink of their becoming lovers. I felt that they 
were never actually lovers. You don't know, because it isn't said in the 
play; you have to interpret it. The songs Ophelia sings are not the 
songs of a girl who doesn't know anything about love. On the other 
hand, she was not a mature woman, or she wouldn't have reacted the 
way she did to what happened around her. A mature woman doesn't 
react that way. At Stratford on Avon, I was very, very happy, I was on 
my own, away from home, and I loved being in the country. It was a 
big, big thrill to know that I was an actress. I wanted to be asked back 
the next year, but I wasn't. I used to cry and howl at disappointments 
in those days. But I found that I had the strength, in the end, to take 
just about anything. And I learned the difference between a disap- 
pointment and being faced with real horror. 

When I went back to London, in February, 1949, I played Daphne 
Randall in "The Damask Cheek," by John Van Draten and Lloyd 
Morris. It was the juvenile lead, a charming, light, easy part, and I was 
very bad in it. I had known exactly what Ophelia was about emo- 
tionally. When you have very little technique, a part that carries an 
emotion is much easier to play. When I played a light juvenile 
part, all my mannerisms came out with my nervous tension, and I had 
plenty of them. In 1949, I got the part of Alizon Eliot in Christopher 
Fry's "The Lady's Not for Burning," with John Gielgud. I played the 
part of a young girl and had a lovely little love scene. During re- 
hearsals, I was nervous, and Gielgud didn't like me at all. I was so 
scared of him. He kept telling me that I ought to have voice lessons 
that he couldn't hear me, even on the stage. I was rehearsing for this 
play while I was still appearing in "The Damask Cheek." Then I got 
the flu and was out for five days, and I was sure Gielgud would take the 
opportunity to give me the sack. When he didn't, I became more con- 
fident and better in the part. It was a beautiful, beautiful production 



like a medieval tapestry. I came to know and appreciate Gielgud, who 
is angelic a quality that is unusual in any man, and especially in an 
actor. We played in London for eleven months. Then I played Isabelle 
in Anouilh's "Ring Round the Moon," with Paul Scofield, in a part 
that everybody wanted, since it was a dream part for any young girl- 
that of a poor young ballerina who comes to a chateau and is supposed 
to stir up jealousy between twin brothers, both played by Scofield. 
Three weeks after the opening, I had my nineteenth birthday, and I 
was the happiest I'd ever been. 

The world of the British theatre is a narrow, narrow world, and my 
own world didn't broaden until I made "Limelight/' with Charles 
Chaplin. In Hollywood, I met all kinds of people writers, directors, 
producers, stars, everybody. In London, when you're nineteen you're 
treated as a child, no matter how successful you are. It was completely 
different in Hollywood. Arthur Laurents, the playwright, had seen me 
as the ballerina in "Ring Round the Moon/' and told Mr. Chaplin 
about me. In April, 1950, I left London for a week to do a screen test 
for Chaplin in New York. It was a nerve-racking period. For the test, 
I was jittery and nervous. Back in London, I got a wire saying that the 
test was excellent, and that Chaplin would let me know his decision 
in three weeks. I waited four months. In August, I gave up the whole 
idea of doing the film, and then, one night, I got a telephone call 
from Mr. Chaplin at the theatre where I was still playing in "Ring 
Round the Moon/' Chaplin's decision was yes. I became hysterical. I 
was frightened. To work with Chaplin, the greatest man in the 
movies! It meant that every ambition of mine as an actress would be 
fulfilled. I couldn't believe that such a thing could happen to me. 
Two weeks later, I left London for Hollywood and "Limelight." The 
whole experience, from beginning to end, was thrilling. It lived up 
to all my expectations, and more. Everything Chaplin could do for me 
he did. Just being with him and working with him was marvellous 
just realizing that a man of his incredible qualities was interested. 
Instead of dying of fear, I was able to talk with him. He was interested 
in what I said. Socially, I had always had great difficulty, but in Holly- 
wood I grew up much more. 

My greatest stage success came in 1952, when I played Juliet with the 
Old Vic Company. The company was on its last legs, facing bank- 
ruptcy, when the decision was made to put on "Romeo and Juliet." 



We got fantastic notices, and made a lot of money, and the Old Vic 
was all right again. Then I was asked to stay on and play Jessica in 
"The Merchant of Venice," which I did. But I was very bad in that 
part. After that, I made a movie, "The Man Between," with James 
Mason. After the movie, I fell into the trap of doing the same thing I 
had done five years before in this case, playing Ophelia again. It 
was at the Edinburgh Festival, with the Old Vic. Whenever you do 
something again, you're open to having it said that you're not nearly 
as good as you were the first time. And usually the things that you did 
instinctively the first time, and that made you good in the first place, 
you don't repeat, because you say to yourself, "My God, I'm years older 
now." Then, after you get the bad notices, you go back to doing the 
things you did instinctively. During that 1953-54 season with the Old 
Vic, I also played Viola in "Twelfth Night," Virgilia in "Coriolanus," 
Helena in "All's Well That Ends Well," and Miranda in "The 
Tempest," and then I experienced a difficult period. I started doing 
a great many things wrong. I had had incredible luck in the beginning, 
and now I started making a mess of it. I let my career go to pot. I 
turned down many roles foolishly, including Anne Frank in "The 
Diary of Anne Frank" and Marcelline, the wife, in Ruth and Arthur 
Goetz's "The Immoralist." After doing two movies, playing Barsine 
in "Alexander the Great" and Lady Anne in "Richard III," with 
Laurence Olivier, I didn't have a thing to do for months. But in Octo- 
ber, 1955, 1 did "Cyrano de Bergerac" on television in New York, with 
Jose Ferrer, and that got me back. After that, I played Cordelia in 
"King Lear," with John Gielgud, in London, and Cleopatra in "Caesar 
and Cleopatra," with Cedric Hardwicke, on American television. I came 
to Broadway with the Old Vic in "Richard II" and "Romeo and Juliet" 
in the fall of 1956. After that, I determined not to play any more 
Shakespeare if I could help it. I made a couple of movies "Look 
Back in Anger," and "Duel of Angels," with Vivien Leigh. At first, 
I turned down the role they offered me in "Look Back in Anger." They 
wanted me to play the mistress, and I thought the part of the wife 
suited me better. Then I reconsidered, decided I was being foolish, and 
played the mistress. I wanted to play in "Rashomon/' because I wanted 
to get away from the English classics. Now I'm sure Fd rather do 
modern things. I like doing live plays on television. It's very concen- 
trated, and it's exciting; it's over quickly and you've done it. 



The most exciting thing in acting is to have a night in the theatre 
when you're on wings. Craft and skill are satisfying, but having a night 
on wings is best of all. You must know exactly what you want to do in 
a part. What you do eventually may be different from what you 
think you want to do, however. I always start working on a part by 
reading a script through again and again, and thinking about it. Some 
people make voluminous notes, but I don't. People think I'm lazy, but 
I have a fearfully good memory, and I can remember what I want to 
do. The actors you work with are important in helping you accomplish 
what you try to do. If you get a good actor to work with, it helps you 
to be better. If you're with a monster, you have no one to strike 
sparks from. A director can help you or hinder you. If he's hindering 
you, it doesn't feel right. If it doesn't feel right, ten to one it isn't 
right. Your own instinct and taste have a lot to do with the way you 
feel, and you have to accept them as your guides. You live the role, but 
I don't believe the people who say they feel it all the time. Twenty-five 
per cent of you always watches you, no matter how involved you are 
with the part, and that twenty-five per cent criticizes you and helps 
keep you in control of yourself. Involvement with the part is essential, 
but self-pity must never be mistaken for involvement. "I'm so marvel- 
lous I'm crying" doesn't mean a thing. When I first read a part, I know 
as much as I'll ever know about it what I feel and how I feel it. But 
you can always develop and enrich what you know. When I did the 
movie based on "The Brothers Karamazov/' I reread the novel many 
times. I love the books of that period anyway. I discussed one point, 
very necessary to my characterization in the trial scene, with Richard 
Brooks, the director-writer, who subsequently rewrote my part in the 
scene. Playing on the stage takes more energy than any other form of 
acting. When you do a thing eight times a week, you're tired at the end 
of the week. It's an inhuman schedule to ask anybody to keep. Other 
people say they're at their best by the time the Saturday-night per- 
formance comes along. Like a greased wheel. But I'm better on Mon- 
day. I need my rest. It takes a lot of energy and strength to bring a little 
beauty into other people's lives. 

When I was nine, I wanted desperately to become an actress, and at 
seventeen I was really playing Ophelia at Stratford, and I didn't care 
about anything, or take any interest in anything, outside of what I was 
doing in the theatre. I wasted a lot of years just being ambitious and 
priggish. I was so ambitious that if I hadn't been successful, it would 



have eaten me up. When you have that kind of ambition, nothing can 
stop you. I used to look forward to matinee days, when I could be in 
the theatre all day long. It had such magic for me. Now I find that as 
I've got older I've really got younger. As a very small child, I was al- 
ways standoffish. It was in my makeup. I loved poetry, especially 
Robert Browning's soliloquies. I didn't want to please the public. 
What I had was the desire to create something beautiful, and it was 
all-consuming. As all artists do, I wanted to express something inside 
myself that nobody else had. I had tremendous drive, and at the same 
time I was appallingly shy. Acting gave me a satisfaction that was to be 
found nowhere else in my life. The rewards of acting are immediate. 
An actor's time is now. The transitoriness of acting is what makes 
people treat it as a second-rate art, as a popular art. But I think it's a 
true art. It's very hard to act truthfully, but if you have the feeling 
that you are another person, and you're playing that person, and yet 
you're in complete control, you're able to express something that is in 
you and only in you. Yet through being someone else you express the 
passions of someone else, and you take the audience with you into 
another world. "Look," you say. "This is what she is/* When it hap- 
pens, you're absolutely on wings. You're carried. You're doing some- 
thing that is coming out of you and yet you have control over it. You're 
in the part, and the part is with you. What the author Is saying, you're 
saying aloud for the first time. Sometimes It's there and sometimes it 
isn't, and when it is, it's marvellous. When it Isn't, you have to work, 
to use what is laughingly called technique. When it Is there, It's al- 
most like being possessed. Yet if It worked that way all the time, 
you'd be a monster. If it happens too often, It somehow seems to go 
sour. You somehow become a complete narcissist. Sybil Thorndike 
and Peggy Ashcroft grow more beautiful as they grow older, but 
Sarah Bernhardt was a complete narcissist, and how It showed on her 
facel Nobody can disguise it. All that self, self, self! Duse, on the other 
hand, was an actress who became beautiful through suffering and liv- 
ing. I've seen pictures of her, and I've never seen another face so 
beautiful In all my life. She had a spiritual quality. She was a woman 
who lived through her spirit as well as through her body and through 
her talent. And I've learned that that's what is important Instead of 
taking from life because "I am I," to take because "I am everybody/* 
It's the safeguard against becoming a monster. Fm glad I found it out 
In time. 


I believe that all people are half actors. 

1 was born on January 1, 1909, in the village of Don't, which is now 
part of the town of Collins, Mississippi. I was the third of thirteen chil- 
dren, five of whom are dead. My father was a Baptist minister, and I 
was named after a Dr. Dana, who taught at the seminary my father 
went to, in Louisville, Kentucky. My first name is Carver, after another 
of the teachers, but I dropped it in college. When I was four, my 
father moved the family to Waelder, in southwest Texas, and he 
established quite a reputation for himself as an evangelist in the 
state. I recently went back to Collins, for the first time since 1913, 
and visited relatives, mostly on my mother's side, and mostly named 
Speed. There are hundreds of Speeds in the area a prolific family, 
consisting largely of good, solid country folk. Our own family moved 
to San Antonio when I was five, and about a year later we moved to 
Rockdale, also in Texas. Then, while I was still in grammar school, 
we moved to Uvalde, Texas. John Nance Garner, who later became 
Vice-President, lived there, and a flock of pigeons I kept used to like 



to settle In his attic; I was always having to go over there and get 
them back. Uvalde left the strongest imprint on me of all the places 
we lived in as I was growing up. It was in a wild, colorful part of 
the state. A friend of my father's joined him in trying to clean up the 
town, and was shot to death in the street by a crony of the sheriffs, be- 
cause the sheriff was in charge of an operation to sell bootleg tequila 
brought in from Mexico. When I was fifteen, we moved to Hunts- 
ville, Texas, because it had a state teachers' college, the Sam Houston, 
where my father felt my six brothers and I could get an education. 
Four of my brothers attended that college, and so did I. Today my 
eldest brother, Wilton, is a geologist with an oil company, and, of my 
other brothers, Harlan is principal of the Bellaire High School in 
Houston, Texas; Ralph is an oil-company engineer; David is an execu- 
tive of a warehouse company in Dallas; John is a sales manager in 
Dallas; and the youngest, William, is an actor the only other actor in 
the family under the name of Steve Forrest. My sister, Mary, teaches 
school in Houston. I graduated from the Huntsville High School, and 
immediately enrolled in the summer session of the Sam Houston. I 
stayed at the college for three years, studying business administration. 
In my first year, I began working on the side at a local movie house, 
first taking tickets, then taking tickets and ushering, which included 
maintaining order among the youngsters on Saturday afternoons. There 
were two theatres in town, owned by the same man, and right next door 
to each other. When I was in my third year of college, I became mana- 
ger of both. I used to watch those damn movies over and over, and after 
a while I began to take some notice of the way the actors went about 
their work. It didn't look so difficult to me. I tremendously admired 
Gary Cooper in "The Legion of the Condemned/' and Douglas Fair- 
banks, Sr., in "The Thief of Bagdad." Also H. B. Warner and Ernest 
Torrence and Joseph Schildkraut in "King of Kings," and Richard Ar- 
len in "Wings." I felt I might even be able to do better than Richard 
Arlen. This was before we had any talkies, but some movie companies 
were experimenting with adding music and sound effects on syn- 
chronized phonograph records, which they sent around with the films. 
I decided to get together a collection of records and use them to 
provide scores of my own. I even recorded some of my own sound 
effects. All in all, the results were pretty corny, but any sort of sound 
was quite impressive in those days. For "King of Kings" we used 



a lot of sacred-music records. Someone had given me a European 
record called "In the Garden/' and when I played it, it sounded sweet 
and sort of sad, so in "King of Kings" I used it for the scene 
in the Garden of Gethsemane. For "The Thief of Bagdad," I used 
'In a Persian Market," and New York scenes always called for 
''Metropolis," "Rhapsody in Blue," and "Manhattan Serenade." We 
always showed a Western movie on Saturday, since that was the day 
all the farmers came to town, and they didn't care much for a movie 
with a complicated plot or one about city folks any more than they 
do now. It's always been a source of deep concern to me that most 
people don't like to learn anything new or different. In addition to the 
feature film, we ran a newsreel and also a two-reel comedy, generally 
featuring Laurel and Hardy, Charley Chase, or Lloyd Hamilton. 

One night, after I'd gone to bed, I began to think about what I 
wanted to do with the rest of my life. I didn't like business. I didn't 
like keeping accounts, which was what I was learning to do in college. 
I didn't want to be ordinary. In high school, I had played in some 
Shakespeare and in two modern plays, "The Microbe of Love" and 
"Nothing But the Truth." In college, I played in several versions of 
what the college called "The Sam Houston Drama," and also in 
"Lady Windermere's Fan," "The Rivals," and "Honor Bright." The 
director, Dr. Charles O. Stewart, encouraged me to make the theatre 
my goal. That night in bed, I realized that the only thing I had ever 
done that made me feel good was acting in those plays. The other 
students had told me how good I was, and some of them had really 
appeared to mean it. I had watched all those pictures, and being in 
movies seemed to be as far away from business as I could get, so 
now I began to think seriously about movie acting. I wanted approba- 
tion, and I wanted to earn it. The idea of making a lot of money 
was attractive, too. The country was in a depression, and I was in 
debt. I quit college and gave up my theatre job, which didn't pay 
much. I was offered a job as an accountant in Houston, and worked 
there for a short while, and then I became accountant for a large 
stationery store in Austin. At that point, I decided definitely to try 
to be an actor. I threw a large party for my friends in Austin? which 
left me penniless, and then I packed my bags and hitchhiked west 
to Van Nuys, a suburb of Los Angeles, where my father was then 
pastor of the Baptist Church. I lived with my family again for three 



months. At first, I made the rounds of the studios, but I didn't get 
anywhere, and I ended up driving the Van Nuys High School bus, 
for ten dollars a week. I was twenty-one years old. Then I went to 
work in a filling station as an attendant. Making the rounds of all 
the movie studios in my free time, I came to realize that I was only 
a punk kid with a little amateur experience, like thousands of other 
idiots who just walked in and asked for a job, and that I had to get 
some experience. So I enrolled in the Van Nuys Night School Drama 
Class, which some of the socially prominent townspeople used as a 
local little theatre, and where a great time was had by all. I was the 
only one in the group burning with serious ambition. I joined just 
as one of the leading men in Bayard Veiller's "The Thirteenth Chair" 
dropped out. He was the principal of the local high school and 
couldn't spare the time for rehearsals, and I was offered his part, and 
took it, even though it was the part of a sixty-year-old man with 
two daughters and a son, all three of whom in actuality were old 
enough to play my parents. One of the actresses in the play was a 
wonderfully vivacious local girl named Janet Murray, who had just 
got her M.A. in journalism at Northwestern University. A year later, 
on December 31, 1932, I married her. She was an inspiration to me 
in the days that followed; unlike everybody in my family, who re- 
fused to recognize acting as a legitimate occupation, she consistently 
encouraged me. She liked my baritone voice and urged me to become 
a singing actor, like Lawrence Tibbett. I began to study singing 
seriously, taking lessons with a local teacher who had sung in 
the original company of "The Desert Song/' Janet and I were very 
happy. In 1933, our son, David, was born, and when he was two, 
Janet contracted pneumonia and died. After that, I worked on my 
music like a maniac, ran two miles every day to build up my dia- 
phragm, and learned operatic roles in French, German, and Italian. 
All this time, I still had my job at the filling station. In 1936, I 
auditioned for an agent named John Columbo brother of the 
singer Russ Columbo and he told me I had a fair voice but 
couldn't make any money as a singer. Second-rate actors, he said, 
could earn more than first-rate singers. He suggested that I get some 
acting training, and I went to the Pasadena Playhouse, and there, 
after years of blundering around, I began to learn to be an actor, 
I started out in small parts in "Julius Caesar" and "Antony and 



Cleopatra" during the last year of a three-year festival of all Shake- 
speare's plays at Pasadena, and then played the intellectual soldier 
one of three men doomed to die in Sidney Howard's "Paths of 
Glory/' It was a highly dramatic part, which gave me plenty of oppor- 
tunity to shine. It was also a demanding role, and I worked on it with 
a private coach to get every shading just right. The reviews of that 
show are still among my most treasured ones. Then, in my next part, 
that of a simple juvenile in a simple play called "Money/' by Aurania 
Rouverol, I learned a very important lesson when I fell flat on my face. 
The part wasn't good, but I was much worse than the part. I didn't 
have the remotest idea how to play a straight part one that wasn't full 
of emotional crises. The easy parts, the ones that help you win awards, 
are those of alcoholics, dope fiends, brutes, and mentally deranged peo- 
ple, because they give you so much to do. However, I slowly began to 
develop a little technique. Those were hectic days of struggle, filled 
with intense excitement. There was tremendous satisfaction in work- 
ing and hoping, in yearning for a part, then getting it and playing 
it. Playing in movies, later on, never gave me that kind of pleasure. 
In 1938, while I was appearing at Pasadena in a small part in Zoe 
Akins' play "O Evening Star," an agent left a note asking me to come 
and see him. I did. He arranged a screen test for me on the Samuel 
Goldwyn lot. Mr. Goldwyn was out of town at the time, but then he 
returned and saw the test, and, as they say, I was in pictures. After I 
signed a contract with Goldwyn, nothing really happened for nine 
months, except that I was financially able to marry Mary Todd, a 
young lady I had been courting for two years. She had appeared with 
me in the play in which I fell flat on my face. Now we have three chil- 
dren Katharine, Stephen, and Susan and I am building a new house 
in Rolling Hills, near Palos Verdes Estates. My wife is a very talented 
actress, but these days she acts at places like the Pasadena Playhouse 
only to have something to do when I'm away. After I'd been with Gold- 
wyn a year, at a salary of a hundred and fifty dollars a week, he sold 
half of my contract to Twentieth Century-Fox, and I worked for both 
alternately for the next eleven years. My first movie part, with three 
lines, was in "The Westerner," starring Gary Cooper. In the next 
twenty years, I played leading roles in over fifty movies, including 
"The Ox-Bow Incident," "Laura," "A Walk in the Sun," "Boomer- 
ang," "The Best Years of Our Lives," "My Foolish Heart," and a whole 



string of pictures with titles like "Swamp Water," "Three Hours to 
Kill," "The Fearmakers," "Enchanted Island," and "Madison Ave- 
nue." I don't like to be ordinary. When I was told that my voice 
would never be among the best, I stopped trying to sing. I once read 
a Gouverneur Morris short story, "Simon L'Ouvrier/' about an actor 
who is so good that no one can tell he is acting. Once, he spends 
two years learning Buddhism in order to go to the forbidden city 
of Lhasa. On his way there, he is crucified and almost dies. De- 
termined to learn his part, he studies for three more years and success- 
fully reaches Lhasa, because no one can detect the difference be- 
tween the actor and the part. I used to dream of being as good an 
actor as that. 

Every person, whether he's an actor or not, has his own way of 
communicating with other people. If your personality is unusual 
enough, you can become a star in the movies. You can't get rid 
of your own personality. It's going to come through, no matter what 
you're doing. In certain ways, it's harder to act in the movies than 
on the stage. The camera is so close. It sees so much and shows 
so much. It picks up every little thing you do with your eyes and 
mouth. On the stage, you don't have to be so conscious of every 
little gesture. On the stage, you can lose yourself in the role more 
and let what happens just happen. You get a much better opportu- 
nity on the stage to develop the character you're playing. Working in 
the continuity of a play rather than in snatches, out of continuity, in 
a movie gives you a better view of the work as a whole, and a deeper 
understanding of it. Having an audience right there while you're 
acting is immensely satisfying. The handicaps you have in stage acting 
that you don't have in movies are minimal projecting to the rear 
of the theatre, remembering lines, playing so that everything is 
visible and audible to the audience. I replaced Henry Fonda in 
"Two for the Seesaw" on Broadway for a year, and it was an ex- 
perience I shall never forget. I didn't miss a single performance not 
even one time when I had a temperature of a hundred and three. 
You can grow on the stage. After a year of playing the lead, I had just 
begun to understand it, to understand what the author meant me to 
be. When I started out in the play, I was overemotional. Because I 
was playing the part of a self-pitying man, I had a tendency to whine. 
My wife pointed that out to me, and I found that if a man 


feels sorry for himself, he doesn't have to whine to show it. I 
stopped whining at once. It's not difficult for me to hide emotion, 
since I've always hidden it in my personal life. What is difficult is to 
convey feelings in a quiet and reserved way. Coming to Broadway 
after twenty years in Hollywood appealed to me. When I came to 
Broadway, I was looking for a kind of revitalization. I found it. 
Playing on the stage demands total concentration, and absolute de- 
votion to the part you're playing. I'm unaware of the audience except 
when it isn't with me. When the throat-clearing, coughing, and squirm- 
ing start, I know I have to put in a little more effort. I need to get 
the people back with me. Then I can forget them. In movies, I had 
been a leading man, and in movies a leading man is usually a man 
who can do no wrong. I was expected to play pleasantly, to play 
pleasingly, to play a good man who is always victorious over evil. I've 
always thought of it as being a boom-boom-boom actor. I'd outshout, 
outfight, outcharm, out-everything everybody while acting. Mean- 
while, the real acting parts were going to the character actors. After 
all those years in movies, my senses as an actor were dulled. On the 
stage, it was up to me to hold the interest of the people out there 
in the audience. I wasn't expected to boom-boom-boom away. I was 
expected to act. That one thing made all the difference. Everything 
was before me, and the possibilities were endless. 



Actors are a much hardier breed of people than any 
other people. We have to be as clever as rats to sur- 

I was born on June 21, 1925, in Troy, New York. I have one brother, 
John, who is three years younger than I am. My parents, both of 
whom are Irish-Americans and strict Roman Catholics, were separated 
when I was five, and after that my brother and I lived with my mother, 
together with my maternal grandmother and three aunts and two 
uncles. My mother worked as a clerk in the New York State Depart- 
ment of Unemployment Insurance, in Albany a twenty-minute drive 
from Troy. She still works there, and now my brother does, too. I 
made my decision to act when I was five years old, when I saw my 
first Jean Harlow movie. I went to movies all the time. Jean Harlow 
was so beautiful, and everybody loved her. What the hell, what could 
be better? I didn't dare tell anybody about my decision. I minded my 
own business. In the parochial school I went to, I would go through 
all the expected motions. I happened to be fatter than any other kid 
on our block. At the age of twelve, I weighed a hundred and forty 



pounds; at thirteen, a hundred and sixty pounds; at fourteen, a 

hundred and eighty pounds. I had a nice fat, unhappy teenhood. 

When I was twelve, I informed my mother for the first time that I 

was going to become an actress. She said, "Sure. Sure/' She didn't 

know that I wasn't asking her, I was telling her. I wanted to become 

an actress because that was the way to be beautiful and rich and to 

have all the fellows love you. The desire was so strong that it sustained 

me. I always took it for granted that if you want to be anything badly 

enough, you just are that it's simply a matter of enduring. There's 

a certain time in your life when you have one friend who sheds 

some light on life for you. For me, that one friend was my Uncle 

Vincent. When I told him that I wanted to become an actress, he 

encouraged me. I could tell him anything in the world. I wasn't 

afraid to say anything to him. Nothing had to be hidden. When I was 

around him, I always forgot, for some reason, to feel that I was the 

kid who was fat. He always told the truth, no matter how shattering 

it was. He was the kind of person who gets very excited about a 

book. He joined the Navy when he was fifteen, and he died at the 

age of thirty-one. I was in two plays in high school "Anne of Green 

Gables" and "Murder on a Ferris Wheel." In both plays, I took the 

part of an old lady who was out of breath or maybe I was out of 

breath. I saw my first real play when I was fourteen a stock-company 

production in Albany of "A Bill of Divorcement." I went crazy. 

They weren't puppets. They weren't on the screen. They were real 

people, being kind to each other, alive. I loved it. 

After graduating from high school, in 1942, I worked for the Un- 
employment Insurance Department in Albany as a clerk, for eighteen 
seventy-five a week. Then I switched to a better-paying clerical job, 
at twenty-eight dollars a week, at the Watervliet Arsenal, near Troy. 
By September, 1943, I had saved up a hundred dollars, and I came 
to New York, determined to become an actress. After two weeks in 
New York, my hundred dollars was gone, so I got a job, operating a 
billing machine for the Hotel New Yorker. I knew of a drama 
teacher in New York Frances Robinson-Duff because I had seen 
her name in a theatre magazine, so I took lessons from Frances 
Robinson-Duff for a few months and spent five hundred dollars learn- 
ing the Delsarte system, where everything is supposed to be divided 
into mental, emotional, and physical categories, with charts under 


each heading. There were an awful lot of charts. But I was young, and 
everything was lovely. Then a friend of one of my aunts told me 
about the drama courses at the New School for Social Research, where 
Herbert Berghof was teaching night classes, so I registered there. It 
turned out to be heaven. I roomed with two other girls taking Herbert's 
course. In the summer of 1945, I followed Herbert and twenty other 
actors and actresses into the Greenbush Summer Theatre, in Blauvelt, 
New York. What unbelievable chaos! Twenty-two democratic voices 
with equal voting power and equal say about doing a different play 
every week for eight weeks! We acted everything and did everything. 
Anybody who took time to wash her hair was ostracized. We didn't 
even have time to eat. Not that we had much to eat. After a couple 
of weeks, Herbert said to me, "Your work is improving. What are you 
doing, Maureen?*' I said, 'Tm washing dishes, scrubbing floors, clean- 
ing toilets." But the question scared me. I asked myself, What am I 
doing? The improvement couldn't be from cleaning toilets. I decided 
it was because I didn't have time to think. I was beginning to feel 
my way through a role. I was just doing it. 

I had the usual couple of years of living off odd jobs, taking lessons, 
talking acting all the time, day and night, with other actors, making 
the rounds, and smiling, smiling, smiling. Then, in the fall of 1946, 
I called up Guthrie McClintic's office to find out who was going to 
play the lead, Pegeen Mike, in "The Playboy of the Western 
World/' By chance, McClintic answered the telephone himself. 
I asked my question politely, and he gave me a rude answer, say- 
ing that it was none of my damn business. This set me off. Among other 
things, I told him that I didn't give a damn who was playing it. That 
did the trick. He turned polite. He asked me to come see him at three 
the next afternoon. I wound up with the part of one of the village girls 
and was also made understudy to the lead. It was my first Broadway 
play. My grandmother, mother, brother, and three aunts came to the 
opening. For eight performances, in the last week of the play's run, 
I played the lead. At the beginning of my first performance, I was 
so terrified I couldn't look up, and when I stood up I had to hold 
on to a piece of furniture to keep my legs from buckling. It was my 
happiest terror* 

In 1947, I played Katharine Cornell's maid in the touring company 
of "The Barretts of Wimpole Street," directed by Guthrie McClintic. 



It was the best time of my life, going across the country, seeing all 
the big cities, and working with Miss Cornell and Mr. McClintic. I 
felt intoxicated all the time just being with the company. The 
actor who played the father made it easy for all the rest of us, in- 
cluding Miss Cornell, to believe in him. He was Wilfrid Lawson, one 
of the greatest actors in the world, and all he had to do was just 
show up and everybody else could get going. Miss Cornell and Mr. 
McClintic did things in a way that was always considerate, always 
kind, always thoughtful. Sort of old-fashioned ways that you don't 
see too much of around these days. I was impressed by them then, 
and I've found out since after considerable comparison shopping 
that I was right. They treated actors like people. Later on that 
same year, I played with Miss Cornell again, this time as one of the 
handmaidens, Iras, in "Antony and Cleopatra." One day, I overslept 
before a performance, was awakened at home by the stage manager, 
rushed to a taxi, got dressed as we drove, and arrived at the theatre 
just as another actress was stepping into my dress and the others 
were taking their places. As I joined them, Miss Cornell said to 
me, "I was so worried about you, because I knew how awful you'd 
feel when you woke up." There may not be a lady like her in the 
whole theatre. 

Around then, I enrolled in the Actors' Studio for study in Robert 
Lewis's class, with Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, David Wayne, 
Tom Ewell, Thelma Schnee, Karl Maiden, Eli Wallach, and Kevin 
McCarthy. We were one of the first classes in the Studio's ex- 
istence. In the spring of 1949, I played a small part in Sidney Kings- 
ley's "Detective Story/' and that July I was married, at the Municipal 
Building, to Max Allentuck, the general manager for Kermit Bloom- 
garden. We had a festive dinner at the Longchamps Restaurant near 
City Hall, and I just made it to the theatre for the curtain. In 1951, 
I played the leading role, Serafina delle Rose, in Tennessee Williams' 
"The Rose Tattoo." I took on the part three months after having my 
first child, Daniel Vincent. In 1953, I replaced Beatrice Straight in 
the role of Elizabeth Proctor for the last seven weeks of Arthur Mil- 
ler's "The Crucible." The following year, in my fifth month of 
pregnancy with my second child, Cathy, I played Masha in the Phoe- 
nix Theatre production of "The Sea Gull/' The year after that, I 
played one Tennessee Williams role, Flora Meighan in "Twenty- 



seven Wagons Full of Cotton/* and in 1957 another, Lady Torrance 
in "Orpheus Descending/* I've played in three movies, "Lonely- 
hearts," "The Fugitive Kind," and "A View from the Bridge/' and I 
didn't like the experience. I'm now divorced, and I live with my 
children in an old brownstone, half of which I own, on West Seven- 
tieth Street. When I'm working, I go home directly from the play, 
have a drink and a late supper, and watch the Late and Late Late 
Shows on television. I try to get eight hours' sleep, because it's necessary 
for your nerves. Your damn nerves have to be in good condition for 
this work. I get up at noon. There's always something doing with 
the kids in the afternoon taking them to the doctor or talking to 
their teachers. Whenever I can, I love to play poker. It's very relaxing, 
like making hooked rugs. I read poetry and other things, but I don't 
ever broaden. I've been reading the same things over and over since 
my English Lit. course in high school. 

When you have an especially demanding part, emotionally what- 
ever the hell that means- your own day-to-day living becomes less well 
integrated. When I work, I get dirty and sloppy offstage. I don't take 
as much care of myself personally. It could be plain, old-fashioned 
laziness, but I think it's almost a moral tendency. I feel I don't have 
to bother as much about matters I don't really care about. Everything 
is geared to the moment of the eight-forty curtain. In the theatre, I 
never have to ask myself, Am I living the role? There's usually a cer- 
tain emotional holdover from the stage into your own life, and it can 
become a physical thing, but you don't have to think about it. The 
main thing is, you're disciplined, and at eight-forty you're oriented to 
being somebody else. It's different in making a movie. I found it some- 
what demoralizing, not being able to act the way I felt I must act. 
There are so many reasons for that. For one thing, you sit around for 
hours, and then, suddenly, you're told you're on. I was never ready. I 
was too accustomed to the discipline of going on at eight-forty. In the 
theatre, when you don't have to do one of those guts-away parts, it 
makes it much easier on your private, away-from-the-stage life. In 
S. N. Behrman's "The Cold Wind and the Warm/' my role, Ida, was 
easier than the others I've played, because Ida wasn't in turmoil. Her 
feelings weren't interlocked with the feelings of the other characters. I 
didn't have to break my neck. In the Tennessee Williams roles I've 
played, the emotional problems were so great I was living under terri- 



ble tension and pressure. That's when you have to call on all that inte- 
rior jazz. After six months of that kind of thing, you tend to get a little 
nutty. I got a little nutty in "The Rose Tattoo/' I felt anxious all the 
time. After all, just one of the things I had to do in that play was the 
scene with the priest, where I clawed at him, tore at his clothes, 
screamed, and carried on. Something like that in one day of anyone's 
life is quite enough to happen. You do that, among other things, every 
night, over and over again, it's bound to take a hell of a lot out of you. 
It forces you to keep yourself on an emotional track full time. 

The prospect of becoming stale in a part is quite frightening. You 
mustn't let yourself become like a record. Yet, at the same time, you've 
got to be sure that that other person you become is going to be finished 
at the end of the play. Everybody, after all, wants to be something 
and somebody. In acting, it's yourself becoming something else and 
somebody else. It's making believe all your life, and who says there's 
anything wrong with that? If you're lucky, you become the person 
you're playing. Every performance, you do new things, just as you do 
all the time in real life, where you never do anything exactly the same 
way twice. Someone like Marlon Brando is so complete a talent he can 
draw on things inside himself for what he needs. He has more equip- 
ment for doing that than most people. If it isn't there, the director has 
to find something to help you put it there. The assumption is that 
emotionally people are all alike, so that nothing you do is really alien 
to anybody else. 

I like to read a play not knowing what part I'm up for. When I do 
know, I can't focus on my own part at all. There's something that 
almost blinds me. The part is like a blank space. Fear sets in immedi- 
ately, and I then read the play over several times. In certain plays, 
when you start work you can make a strong emotional identification 
right away, or get some sort of over-all picture of the characterization. 
Then it's like a construction job. I often draw on other people or on 
experiences that illuminate some part of the character. Then I add 
things as I go along. I once worked with a woman who turned to me 
suddenly, in the middle of a rehearsal, and cried, "Now we're getting 
the pants on!" It is like getting dressed. After a while, as you go 
along, you find that all things dovetail. The director is a guide. If I 
don't trust a director, I pretend to listen to him but I muddle through 
by myself. Once you set the things you do and make them mean cer- 



tain things, you then respond to the stimuli you yourself have set up. 
Then you feel. You might set it up as a combination of mind and 
feeling, but the feeling usually takes over. Crying is easy. I watch 
"Lassie" on television and I cry. I watch an old man carrying an 
icebox up two flights of stairs and I cry. Bobby Lewis says, "If crying 
were acting, my Aunt Rifke would be Duse." All you have to do 
to cry is set up the stimulus that will trigger the mechanism, and 
off you go. Laughing is much more difficult. On the whole, it's very, 
very hard to do a true laugh. It's that way in life, too. You hear a lot 
of laughter but very little real laughter. The usual laugh is more like 
a nervous mannerism. A real laugh is so real you have no control 
over it. It's quite beautiful. 

I believe in the toughness of actors. I have a feeling of genuine 
pride in actors as my people. We're called egomaniacs; we're thought 
of as children. The people out in front are regarded as heads of 
state, but actors are supposed to be irresponsible, stupid, unaware, 
and a kind of joke. They're accused of having big egos. Well, 
the actor's ego is no different in size because he's an actor. Actors 
don't need half as much of that flattery malarkey as some people 
think they need, and they need much less than a lot of other artists. 
A writer or a painter or a musician can go off into a corner and lick 
his wounds, but an actor stands out in front of the crowd and takes 
it. Actors are up for exposure night after night. Yet actors are expend- 
able, like cattle, because so few jobs are available. Actors spend years 
and years being treated like dirt. They're constantly in a state of de- 
basement, making the rounds of casting directors and having to look 
happy and great. I made the rounds for years, but I wasn't good at it. 
But then nobody is. You need a very strong stomach. You need a sense 
of the business as a whole, so that you don't get lacerated every time 
somebody tells you you're lousy. You need strength, and no matter 
how strong you get, you always need to get stronger. There's never a 
guarantee you'll go on working. A show will always close, sooner or 
later. If I'm not working, I just consider myself somebody who is 
waiting to go on working. It's the only thing you can do. Your aspira- 
tion to act is so great, so deep, so complete, that you give yourself 
not ten years, not twenty, but your whole lifetime to realize it. 



Your personality, for the most party is what the movie 
medium draws out and uses y but somebody who really 
knows his craft can act, as well as appear, in movies. 

I was born on December 26, 1914, in Sunrise, Minnesota. My father 
had a general store there, then later became a travelling salesman. I'm 
a mixture of Swedish, Scottish, English, and Irish strains. My parents 
were divorced in 1941. I had one brother, Donald, four years younger 
than I was, who was a pilot in the Second World War and who died 
right after the war. Our family moved around a lot when I was a child. 
We lived in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Henry, Illinois; Chillicothe, 
Missouri; and Princeton, Illinois. Princeton was where I graduated 
from high school and where I discovered that I was a pretty good pub- 
lic speaker. My grandmother started taking me to movies when I was 
three, and I was movie-crazy from then on. As a boy, I never admitted 
I liked acting, because it was considered sissy among my friends. 
One of my earliest favorites was Harold Lloyd in "Safety Last." 
My grandmother was nutty about Tom Mix, who played cowboys, 
and Thomas Meighan, a matinee idol of the time, and I began to 
worship them, too. I used to go to movies about three times a week. 
Later on, I worked as doorman at the movie theatre in Princeton and 



saw scads of pictures. After high school, I went to Lake Forest College, 
in Lake Forest, Illinois, on a scholarship. I took a pre-law course, and 
was active in the Drama Department. I appeared in about thirty plays, 
all of them modern. It was after playing the lead in Elmer Rice's 
"Counsellor-at-Law," in my sophomore year, that I began to think I'd 
have a go at acting for a living. I met my wife, Jean, at college, but we 
didn't get married until 1942. After graduating, in 1936, I took a job 
there as an instructor in the Drama Department, at a hundred and fifty 
dollars a month; I directed plays and acted in them for two years. 

In 1938, 1 came to New York, where Jean was by then attending the 
American Academy of Dramatic Arts. A man I had gone to school with 
was producing radio soap operas, and he gave me a part playing a 
gas-station attendant in "Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories." It was the 
heyday of radio, and I went on to play in a lot of fifteen-minute soap 
operas "Big Sister," "Joyce Jordan, M.D.," "Front Page FarrelL" 
Also, I got to belong to an inner circle of actors in New York. Getting 
launched was easy for me. Too easy, perhaps. That's probably why I 
never got that dedicated feeling. I never considered myself a dedicated 
artist, and don't now. I've never had the feeling I'd die if I didn't get 
a certain part. Just the same, I love to work, and I work hard. Acting 
has always been my work, and it's part of my life. When I was working 
in radio, Jean and I were married, and we had a Bronxville house with 
a swimming pool. I was making fifteen or twenty thousand a year, and 
I'm probably the only actor who ever gave up a swimming pool to go 
out to Hollywood. Radio acting is not acting, and it can be dangerous 
to an actor. I'd be playing an upset young husband, say, in something 
like "Life Can Be Beautiful," on N.B.C., and wind up in a gale of emo- 
tions at 11:58, then rush downstairs by elevator and taxi over to C.B.S., 
where something like "Big Sister" went on at 12:15, and at 12:17 I'd 
come on playing an upset young lover in another gale of emotion. 
There'd be no preparation, no thought only four minutes in the 
morning when you'd read through your script. You'd do a lot of radio 
shows and develop a super-facility at reading lines. Fortunately, I was 
aware of this; I knew enough about acting, about taste, about perform- 
ance, and I knew the kind of actor I wanted to be. In my adult years, 
the man I have admired most in acting is Spencer Tracy. What an actor 
should be is exemplified, for me, by him. I like the reality of his acting. 
It's so honest and seems so effortless, even though what Tracy does is 



the result of damn hard work and extreme concentration. Actually, the 
ultimate in any art is never to show the wheels grinding. The essence 
of bad acting, for example, is shouting. Tracy never shouts. He's the 
greatest movie actor there ever was. If he had wanted to go the classic 
route, he could have been as great in that field as Laurence Olivier. 
I've learned more about acting from watching Tracy than in any other 
way. He has great truth in everything he does. You can arrive at 
truth in acting only through concentration, which in the movies is 
most difficult to achieve. I've always wanted to be as good as Tracy is, 
and I'm still trying. 

I suppose I wanted to act in order to have a place in the sun. I'd 
always lived in small towns, and acting meant having some kind of 
identity. I started working on the Broadway stage in 1943. Because of 
one of the largest eardrum perforations on record, I was turned down 
three times for the Army. I'd never had any formal training for the 
stage. I'd never played any Shakespeare, and I still haven't. Also, I 
was never a joiner. I don't like actor groups, which I think can be 
terribly destructive, especially to a kid. In my first role, at a hundred 
and fifty dollars a week, I played an Army lieutenant in F. Hugh 
Herbert's "Kiss and Tell," which was produced and directed by George 
Abbott. After that, I played in "Get Away Old Man," "Kiss Them for 
Me," and "Dunnigan's Daughter/' and in the Chicago company of 
"Dream Girl." No matter what I did on the stage, I always tried to 
keep the radio work going. I actually derived certain things from radio 
the self-reliance and confidence that come from sheer experience, 
and the concentration you have to develop working in a small physical 
area. On radio, I played parts pretty well typed a lot of young, 
neurotic guys. I began to enjoy a lot of things about acting when I 
started working in stage jobs building up a part, getting it all set, dis- 
covering how to maintain control. 

From the beginning, what I always had in mind was eventually to 
go to Hollywood. I wanted to act in movies more than in plays. Now I 
find the greatest fascination in the production end of movies. My idea 
now is to do two movies a year one for a big company, and one I 
produce myself. The first movie I did was "Kiss of Death," made in 
New York in 1947, before I went out to Hollywood. I did it strictly for 
fun, but in order to do it I had to sign a seven-year contract with one- 
year options with Twentieth Century-Fox. Between 1947 and 1954, I 



made about twenty movies for Fox, including "Panic in the Streets," 
"No Way Out/' and "My Pal Gus." But I knew I had to get away from 
Fox, where I was being switched around from movie to movie with- 
out getting a chance to do much that I liked. I didn't sign another 
long-term contract. I now work as an independent. I have a farm and 
ranch, where I grow barley and raise cattle, between Santa Barbara and 
Los Angeles, and a house in Brentwood. Every day, I go to my business 
office, which I maintain at the Universal-International studios. I have 
my own film company, called Heath, which is my daughter's middle 
name; her first name is Anne, and she's sixteen, going to high school 
and, thank God, not acting. Occasionally, I'll go to one of those Holly- 
wood parties, just to see the birds and bees all decked out, but I'm a 
firm believer in keeping business separate from my home. 

My first movie, and my part in it as a laughing murderer who pushes 
an old lady down some stairs and kills her, practically gave me a 
phobia. I'd never seen myself on the screen, and when I did I wanted 
to shoot myself. That damn laugh of mine! For two years after that 
picture, you couldn't get me to smile. I played the part the way I did 
because the script struck me as funny and the part I played made me 
laugh, the guy was such a ridiculous beast. I was doing "Inner Sanc- 
tum" on radio at the same time, and I remember reading the "Kiss of 
Death" script to some of the guys and saying "Hey, get a load of this!" 
and laughing, it was so funny. And that's the way I played the part in 
the movie. Movie audiences fasten on to one aspect of the actor; they 
hold on to a piece of your personality for dear life, and decide 
what they want you to be. They think you're playing yourself. The 
truth is that the only person who can ever really play himself is a baby. 
You seldom learn to act in movies. I learned the fundamentals on the 
stage. In movies, you learn to do things on a minute scale, and there's 
nowhere to go from there. If you start in the theatre, you can learn 
later how to scale things down for pictures. Movie acting, however, is 
the most difficult kind of all to do. Theatre acting is a breeze by com- 
parison. The fact that you're working on comparatively short frag- 
ments in a movie, out of context, and that you have to make them all 
add up to a whole is difficult enough. But then you have all the me- 
chanical paraphernalia around. True movie acting is such a rare thing. 
You find a lot of effective performances, but it's hard to think of any- 
one except Spencer Tracy who has really had a whole career of superb 



acting in movies. He discounts it, but you have to have pride in what 
you're doing if it's going to be really good, and it's obvious that he has 
it. When he's doing a part, it's bang on the nose. The older you get, the 
less you know about acting but the more you know about what makes 
the really great actors. In each succeeding movie, you're virtually start- 
ing all over. The actor is tested again each time. If you're successful, 
you've been there, they've seen you, and they're measuring you against 
the time before. Actors are a little lonely in that regard. It's you out on 
the stage or on the screen. The reaction is to you. The motion picture 
is a popular art, demanding a mass audience. They're the ones reacting 
to what you do. The result you see on the screen is a combination of 
actor and director, in most cases. There's no way of distinguishing be- 
tween what the director does and what the actor does. You can't tell 
by the result on the screen how it came about. Most directors are good 
mediocrities; there's a dearth of really good ones. There are very few 
really good moviemakers altogether. 

When I'm reading a script for the first time, I read it for story. As 
you go along, you see something in your part. Once you start, it's kind 
of with you all the time. You can be out driving a tractor on the farm, 
and the part is with you. It demands constant absorption. That as- 
pect of it is pretty much as it is with a play. I learn my part first 
off, line by line. My wife or my daughter cues me. I learn the whole 
thing by rote, and then it's out of the way. You don't have to think 
of the words; they just come. For my recent movie "Judgment at 
Nuremberg/' it took me six weeks just to learn the lines of my part. Re- 
hearsals are for common movement, but you get little time for that. If 
we had three or four weeks of rehearsal for movies, it would make a 
tremendous difference. I've got be up on a tough scene weeks before I 
do it for the camera. It's tricky. You have to have the over-all idea of 
what you're going to do firmly entrenched. Then, making one scene 
match another is tricky, too. When you stop at 6 P.M. Monday and 
pick it up again at 4 P.M. Thursday, you need to be absolutely in con- 
trol of what you're doing if you want it to match. Memory counts a 
lot, and, fortunately, I have a very good memory. 

What makes acting exciting is that real spark you feel. For me, the 
spark is a kind of elated feeling. You're zigging up in a jet. It's wow! 
When it's not there, it feels like walking in mud. The audience always 
sees or senses that spark, too. It's there. Nobody can explain it. A lot 



depends on your fellow-actors. When I'm in a scene with Tracy, I play 
to him. He's the greatest listener in this business. It's a very elusive 
thing. Somebody can be looking you in the eye and he's in Timbuctoo. 
You can only feel it; you can't know it intellectually. Tracy plays 
Judge Dan Haywood in "Judgment at Nuremberg/' and I play Colonel 
Lawson, an attorney. I look at this guy, and something goes. He doesn't 
talk much about acting, but he knows it all. 



Acting is the only way I am able to live. I want to 
be everybody, and I want to be everything. One life 
is not enough. 

I was born on Christmas Day, 1889, in Moscow. My mother died when I 
was born. My father was a schoolteacher. I have an older brother and 
sister, but I have not seen them or heard from them since I left Russia 
in 1923. I was brought up by a wealthy merchant, a patron of my 
father's school, who took me into his own family of five boys and a girl, 
and who gave me everything education, travel, care, love. I learned to 
read at the age of three. As a child, I also learned to speak French and 
German. I started out wanting to be a bear when I grew up. Such an 
enjoyable prospect lying in warm fur, in a warm den! Then I wanted 
to be a beggar, roaming the country, extending a hand, and having 
people give me bread and milk. After that, I wanted to be a clown. I 
studied gymnastics and juggling, and then I discovered that I did not 
have the necessary strength and health to become a clown. I in- 



vented my own pantomimes, imitating cats and birds, and put on 
skits for the entertainment of my patron and his family. I wanted to be 
an actor, but the idea was taboo. My patron wanted me to become a 
brilliant professor. I was small and looked Oriental. The old family 
nurse would tell me, "Dear child, you are ugly, but you will get every- 
thing, not by the way you look but by what you have inside." The 
mother of the family was different. I adored her. She always told me, 
"You are not ugly. You are funny." 

At seventeen, I attended the University of Moscow, studying phi- 
losophy and literature, but after a year I wanted to go to the Moscow 
Art Theatre school. More than a hundred young men applied for audi- 
tions each year; only seven or eight were chosen. Stanislavski himself 
was at my audition. Instead of reading a story or reciting a poem, as 
the others did, I gave a little act I had composed in which I read a news- 
paper as various contemporary characters in Russian life would. Stan- 
islavski told me, "You have something, but we cannot accept you, be- 
cause you do not look healthy or strong enough. Get stronger and come 
back next year." I burst into tears. He then agreed to put me in a 
second-string school, taught by the student actors themselves. So every 
day I would leave home to go to the university, and from there I would 
go to the theatre school. After three years, the strain was too great. I be- 
came ill with tuberculosis. I had to tell my patron what I had been 
doing. He sent me to the Crimea and the South of France to recover. 
I gave him my word I would forget the foolishness of acting. But after 
my recovery I broke my word and joined the school again, appearing 
in mob scenes in Moscow Art Theatre productions and attending the 
regular theatre school. I appeared onstage in heavy disguises, but one 
day I was recognized, and there was a big scandal. I felt like a 
scoundrel. But I moved out of my patron's home and got a room for 
ten kopecks a week about twenty cents. I was very happy. I got a 
Ph.D. degree in literature from the university, and in 1914 I became a 
professional actor. 

I adored Stanislavski. I worshipped him. But I wanted a different ap- 
proach for myself in acting. I wanted the miraculous, the fascinating, 
the romantic theatre, with more music and more staging. I felt I could 
play anything, but my heart from the beginning belonged to the the- 
atre of Moliere and Shakespeare. I found my kind of theatre when I 
joined the Kamerny Theatre, the first theatre founded as a departure 



from the Moscow Art. My first important part was the buffoon 
in an old Hindu play, "Sakuntala." Then I directed "The Taming of 
the Shrew** and played the lead, and married Elizabeth Alexandrova, 
the actress who played Katharina. Life was good. Life was wonderful. 
Then there was the revolution, and all theatres were closed. There was 
no food. There was no fuel. I went to Molvitino, in the country, about 
six hundred miles from Moscow, and lived there for sixteen months, 
fishing, picking mushrooms and wild berries, getting healthy. I put on 
a production of Tolstoy's "The Power of Darkness," with peasants as 
the actors and peasants as the audience. It was a powerful experience 
the closest I have ever come to being at one with my audience. In 
1920, the theatres in Moscow were opened again. Actors were given 
privileges in the way of living conditions and in obtaining food. They 
were considered useful as propaganda for the revolution. In 1922, I 
thought of myself as an actor who should be limited to doing broad 
comedy, but Isadora Duncan, who had opened a school for dancing in 
Moscow, told me, when we met, that I should play tragedy. She had a 
tremendous influence on me. She was a revelation to me. A great per- 
son in life. Not only a dancer but a tragic actress. She had immense 
generosity and understanding of art. She was the only person I had ever 
met who was not a conformist. To me, she was the personification of 
the great artist. She was to be an inspiration to me for the rest of my 

In 1923, I went to Vienna with the Kamerny company, playing the 
Dauphin in Shaw's "Saint Joan," and parts in Ostrovski's "The Storm" 
and in an adaptation of G. K. Chesterton's novel "The Man Who Was 
Thursday/* We set out to tour Germany. In Dresden, I was in an ele- 
vator that fell into the basement of the theatre during the second act 
of the Chesterton play, and I broke my right foot and right leg. I stayed 
on in Germany for eight months for treatment. I played occasional 
parts, in German, such as a ninety-year-old rabbi in "The Dybbuk," in 
which I could wear a long robe, limp, and carry a cane. I was playing 
such a small part at the Kleines Theatre in Berlin when Max Rein- 
hardt saw me and asked me to join his company. I played Puck for him 
in " A Midsummer Night's Dream." I loved Reinhardt from the start. 
Perhaps he was the greatest man in the theatre in my experience. Stanis- 
lavski was a pedagogue; he was always explaining things to you in 
words. But Max Reinhardt always gave you the feeling. He was the 



greatest director of all. He was shamefully misunderstood and mis- 
treated when he came to America. He was a born magician. Every actor 
I know who worked with him fell in love with him. My years with him 
were more than enjoyable; they were incredibly fruitful. He loved 
character acting. He loved actors. I once said to him, "Professor, why 
don't you act?" He said, "I act in all of you/* 

I played in Germany in the twenties, and made my first movie there, 
a silent film, in 1925 Berthold Viertel's "The Adventures of a Ten 
Mark Note," in which I took the part of the ragpicker who finds the 
bill. In 1927, 1 was in New York briefly, on tour with Reinhardt's com- 
pany. In the thirties, I went to France and took French-speaking parts 
in French plays. I also went to Hollywood, making German versions of 
movies, to be shown abroad, but I did not care for the life, and re- 
turned to Germany and France. In 1937, I came to America again and 
acted under contract with Warner Brothers in "The Life of Emile 
Zola/' In 1938, in New York, I played Robespierre in "Danton's 
Death/' with Orson Welles a part I had played in German with 
Reinhardt's company in Vienna and in New York in 1927. Then I 
made many Hollywood movies, In which I played Chinese, Japanese, 
Malayans, Filipinos, Hindus, Italians, Spaniards, Czechs, Mexicans, 
and Germans; only twice have I played a Russian. One day in 1947, in 
Hollywood, I got a call to come to New York to play in "Crime and 
Punishment" with John Gielgud. I was so excited. Here I had just 
finished making one of those movies about narcotics and had played 
a Chinese narcotics commissioner. Now I was offered the part of 
Porfiri Petrovitch the prosecutor who from the beginning feels 
that Raskolnikoff, played by Gielgud, is guilty of his crime. I 
tried in the play to catch him in a very subtle way, without being 
too aggressive but working on his conscience. I loved the part. I had 
never met Gielgud before, but I had seen him in "Hamlet" and 
thought he was brilliant. I have always thought that, besides being a 
splendid actor, he is a poet. That is the element I like in him. I con- 
sider him in every way much deeper than almost any other actor. 
From the moment we started rehearsals, we understood each other. 
Seldom have I felt such ease as I felt rehearsing with him. There were 
many fine actors in the cast, including Lillian Gish, who played 
Katerina, and Dolly Haas, who played Sonia, the prostitute in love with 
Raskolnikoff, and the whole play was one of the most satisfying I have 



ever done. Gielgud from the beginning always asked us whether we 
felt all right, and in every way he offered such gentlemanly coopera- 
tion. He is so generous, so considerate of his fellow-actors a gentleman 
on the stage. He made me feel, It is so simple for me to play this part. 
We were rehearsing half-voice one day, very quietly, when suddenly we 
saw one of the producers, Robert Whitehead, standing in the orchestra. 
He asked us, "Why don't you rehearse?" And Gielgud laughed and 
said, "We are rehearsing." Because our dialogue was running so 
smoothly, so naturally, and with such conviction, Whitehead thought 
we were just talking to each other. Gielgud stands almost alone as an 
artist. After every performance, he would gather the company together 
on the stage and make remarks about the night's performance. He 
wasn't the director, but he felt a responsibility for all of us. We played 
"Crime and Punishment" for forty performances, and every perform- 
ance to me was just like a first performance. Gielgud and I had three 
big scenes in which we were onstage alone together. Gielgud is so flex- 
ible, so hospitable to every nuance you give him, that there was 
always something new to find in what you yourself did. I enjoyed the 
way he would take it and answer it. In our three big scenes, I felt as 
though we were playing tennis with the audience, the ball going to the 
audience and then back to the stage, and it was almost as though 
Gielgud would say, "Vladimir, you take it," and then the ball would 
go to the audience again, and then back, and I would say, "You take 
it, John." We were playing doubles with the audience, and we always 
won. It is such bliss to act with a man like that. 

Every actor has, as a gift from God, his own method. My particular 
method is to go first by the sense of taste physical taste. I actually have 
a physical taste for every part. Then I go by the other senses hearing, 
seeing, touching. Thinking comes much later. Thinking comes when 
you have already molded the part you are playing. You should analyze 
the part, but not too much. One of the poets has said that every art 
must be a little stupid. An artist should not be overly intelligent. My 
method, without thinking, is to follow the path of physical truthful- 
ness. The way I ate the soup in "The Power of Darkness," which I 
played again in New York in 1959, 1 was not pretending, I was doing it. 
And the audience believed in me a hundred per cent. From then on, no 
matter what I did, the audience believed in me, because I had already 
won them. Max Reinhardt always said it is the task of the character 
actor not to disguise himself but to reveal himself. The simplest way is 



the truest way. You start to think only when the part has reached a cer- 
tain age. It's like a child he's not ready to think until he has reached 
a certain point of development. When you are building a part, that 
point is in the last dress rehearsals or after the first few performances. 

In 1934, I was sitting with Stanislavski in Paris, in the Bois de 
Boulogne, and he was reading to me from "An Actor Prepares." He 
said to me, "Sokoloff, if you go with Max Reinhardt to America, if you 
want to help youngsters, forget all this theory. Don't apply this. Don't 
pay any attention to this. Everything is different in America. The edu- 
cation. The psychology. The health. The mentality. Even the food is 
different there. We needed this book to open actors up in Russia. In 
America, it is different. They don't need it there. If they try to use it, 
they will unnecessarily spy on themselves, asking 'Do I feel it or not?' 
Tell them, In America the actor is free/ " Stanislavski tells actors to 
observe. I do not believe in observing too much. Eighty per cent of 
observations are wrong. People do not look like what they are. There 
is only one exception I know of Albert Einstein. I once observed a 
man I decided was a mortician. Who did it turn out to be? Igor 
Stravinsky! The clown Crock was my idol. I was supposed to meet 
Grock in a restaurant. I had never seen him without his clown makeup 
and costume. In the restaurant, I saw no one who could be Grock. I 
saw a dull-looking white-haired man with gold-rimmed spectacles who 
was sitting with a fat, typically middle-class wife wearing diamonds. 
That was Grock. 

However, I have great curiosity about everything. That is the only 
thing that keeps an actor's acting alive. When the weather is good, I 
take walks. My wife died in 1948, and I am alone a good deal. But 
everything I see gives me something. I see a girl with a charming smile. 
I see a child with a doll. A new tie in a window. A passing cloud. Every 
day, when I am in New York, I go to some museum and absorb the 
loveliness of what they have there. Every day, I find at least one 
beautiful thing. It is invaluable to me as an actor. An actor has a 
peculiar structure as a human being. For me, the world is divided into 
two parts, and the dividing line is the footlights. You must know at 
every given moment on the stage not what you feel but what you want 
what Walter Huston used to call your "intention." I love to watch 
children when they play. They are acting all the time. They are mak- 
ing their own world the way they feel it should be. Acting is childhood 
hidden under the cape. 



/ I 


Onstage, I can use a lot of aspects of myself that 
aren't available to me, because of shyness or various 
other complications ; in my real life. 

I was born on November 12, 1922, in Detroit, Michigan. I have one 
brother, G. Gordon Cole, eight and a half years older than I am, 
who lives in Minneapolis and works as a captain for one of the big 
commercial airlines. My real name is Janet Cole. My father, Donald 
Cole, was a refrigeration engineer. My mother had been trained as a 
concert pianist and used to accompany choral groups in public per- 
formances, but after she got married she gave it up, because she had two 
children to raise. My father died when I was three. Seven years later, 
my mother married Bliss Stebbins, a retired businessman who lived 
in Miami Beach, and we all moved down there. When I was about 
ten, I began to go to movies. The first really impressive movie I saw 
when I was eleven was "The Sign of the Cross," with Fredric 
March, Claudette Colbert, and Elissa Landi. I found it an incredible 
experience. It seemed to me then that movies came out ready-made; 



it never occurred to me to make a connection between acting and the 
movies. I led a kind of solo existence in my childhood. Each summer 
from the time I was eleven until I was sixteen, we spent several 
months at Grand Lake, Michigan, where my stepfather owned a 
hotel and a cluster of small cottages, one of which we lived in. Each 
summer, there would be different families living in the other cottages, 
always with a lot of boys but no girls. My brother had friends, and 
I got the notion that girls were rarities and boys were rather ex- 
pendable. The place was wild and woodsy, and I would go off for 
long walks by myself. During my first summer at Grand Lake, I came 
across an old libretto of "Cavalleria Rusticana" in my stepfather's 
library. It had a rhymed English translation facing the Italian text, 
and I took it to one of the vacant cottages and sat down in the living 
room and read it all the way through. I couldn't get over the rhythm 
and beauty of the words, and the wonder of thinking that live people 
got up on a stage to sing those words. I immediately felt inspired to 
write a play of my own. It took me two weeks. I called it "Helena" 
the most romantic name I could think of at that time and it was 
probably fairly similar to the libretto of "Cavalleria Rusticana." As 
soon as I got back to Florida, I got a couple of girls from school 
together and said "Let's write plays," and we started writing our own 
plays. It then occurred to me that I might act in plays as well as 
write them. 

Not long afterward, I began to study acting with a woman in our 
neighborhood named Charmine Lantaff, who had worked in New 
York as a drama coach and had set up a kind of acting school, with 
lessons available to children and adults, in her own home in Florida. 
My mother was all for it. She backed me in every way. She arranged 
for Miss Lantaff to give me three lessons a week, in voice technique, 
theatre history, and theory a lot of theory. In my spare time, I 
studied on my own. At first, I was very shy. It frightened me to get up 
in front of people to read; I could do it for Miss Lantaff, and only 
for Miss Lantaff. I spent hours discussing the theatre with her, and 
she led me beyond my natural capacity to act things out. I was her 
best pupil. I had the child's notion that since I was able to please 
Miss Lantaff, I could win the world's approval by doing the same 
thing for large groups. My mother didn't have the attitude that she 
wanted me to do what she had failed to do, or anything like that; 



she simply knew that she had had a gift that had never been utilized, 
and she wanted me to utilize mine if I felt I really had it. When I 
was sixteen, I had my first big theatrical experience, reciting a mono- 
logue at an entertainment given by the student council of Miami 
Beach High School to raise money for the school. I was asked to give 
the monologue because the students knew about my acting lessons. I 
chose "The Waltz," Dorothy Parker's short story about a wallflower 
at a dance, to adapt as a monologue. I didn't write it until the morn- 
ing of the day I was supposed to give it, hoping against hope that 
something would come up to get me out of it. There was an awful 
feeling inside me that I didn't want to do it. I just didn't want to 
perform for anybody. I nearly panicked waiting to go onstage. 
I didn't think I'd make it. But then the training and discipline I'd 
got from Miss Lantaff took over, and I leaned against a pillar onstage 
and went through with the monologue, and everybody clapped. After 
that, with Miss LantafFs encouragement, I participated in two school 
plays, and performed in plays put on by Miss Lantaff for women's 
clubs. I took every role I could get. In my senior year, I was given 
the leading role in the graduation play, Clifford Goldsmith's "What 
a Life." My mother came to see me in it, and said I was good, and en- 
couraged me to keep working at it. 

After my graduation from high school, in June, 1940, there was 
nothing for me to do in Florida, By that time, Miss Lantaff had 
started a summer-theatre company in Hendersonville, North Caro- 
lina, so I went up there and joined it. I lived in a girls' summer 
camp nearby, and at the theatre, which was called the Old Mill 
Playhouse, I played ingenue roles. We put on a different play every 
week for ten weeks, and I played most of the leads. In the fall, I 
went back to Miami 'Beach and worked as an apprentice with the Gant 
Gaither Theatre, a local group that imported professional stars. I 
got only bit parts to play. Then I joined the Theatre of the Fifteen, 
a group in Coral Gables, where I played Cecily Cardew in "The 
Importance of Being Earnest." In the summer of 1941, I went back 
to the theatre in Hendersonville, this time with the Coral Gables 
group, and we went on to play a season in Baltimore that fall. Then 
we went back to Coral Gables for a full winter season. I played the 
ingenue in "The Male Animal," "Is Zat So?," "The Man Who Came 
to Dinner," "The Philadelphia Story," and others. My pay consisted 



of my board and room. Quite a few of the members of the Coral 
Gables group had come from the Pasadena Playhouse, in California, 
and one of them, a young director, left to go back there. Soon 
various wartime restrictions made it impossible for our stock com- 
pany to survive, and in May, 1942, we broke up for the duration. I 
again went back to Miami Beach, and worked for the American Red 
Cross. I thought, fearfully, of coming to New York to try my luck 
here, and I wrote to the young director in Pasadena and told him 
this. He wrote back and suggested that I come to Pasadena instead, 
to audition for one of the student groups at the Pasadena Playhouse. 
So in November of that year I went to California, and got the ingenue 
part in a Playhouse production of "Arsenic and Old Lace" and an- 
other sort of ingenue part in "The Women." About a year later, on 
the West Coast, I met a captain in the Marine Corps, William Bald- 
win, and we were married. It was one of those wartime marriages; 
he was sent overseas, and when he returned, after the war, we both 
knew we had made a mistake, and were divorced. We had one child, 
Kathy, who was born in December, 1944. She hasn't seen her real 
father since she was three. He has remarried and has several other 
children. I am now married to Robert Emmett, who writes television 
situation comedies and has adapted material for television and the 
stage. We have a son, Sean, who was born in 1954. Both children take 
my being an actress for granted. My children belong to the theatre, 
just as my husband and I do. We're never away from it. We live 
next door to the Cherry Lane Theatre, in the Village, and our bed- 
room wall adjoins the wall of the stage. We hear the rehearsals, the 
performances, and the applause, even in our sleep. 

In 1943, an agent who had seen me in Pasadena and wanted to 
represent me got me to sign a seven-year movie contract with David 
O. Selznick. I never made a movie for him, but he was the one who 
got me to change my name. Janet Cole was not theatrical enough, 
he said, and besides there were a lot of other Janets around, includ- 
ing Janet Gaynor and Janet Blair. I was delighted, because I loathed 
my name at the time. I tossed in "Kim/' a name I admired long- 
ingly the name of Magnolia's daughter in "Show Boat/' After 
Selznick had arranged to lend me to R.K.O., the secretary of an 
R.K.O. producer came up with the name "Hunter." Selznick put 
the two together, and there I was. All I ever did for Selznick, 



however, was to appear in Ingrid Bergman's role in screen tests 
for actors trying to get minor roles in "Spellbound." I was lent out 
by Selznick to other studios, and made "The Seventh Victim" for 
R.K.O., "Betrayed" for Monogram, and "You Came Along" for 
Paramount. I have only a vague recollection of what the movies were 
about, but a clear one that most of them were labelled "B." The 
one big point that had been impressed on me was that the movies 
magnified every movement a hundred times a statistic that affected 
me so powerfully that I became afraid to move at all. What really 
mattered to me, though, was that I was earning a living for myself and 
my baby. Then J. Arthur Rank, in England, offered me a contract and 
the role in "Stairway to Heaven," and Selznick dropped my option 
and I was free to work for Rank for six wonderful months from June 
to December, 1945. I left the baby with my mother and went to 
England. It was quite an experience, being in England immediately 
after the war, working with good actors, and working with Michael 
Powell, who is a wonderful director. When the six months were up, I 
went back to California. By 1947, I'd had enough of sitting around in 
California, and I decided to return to summer stock. Through a direc- 
tor, I was offered the leading role in a summer-theatre production of 
Rose Franken's "Claudia," in Stamford, Connecticut, for a week. I got 
my mother and Kathy into our Buick, and we drove East. 

One night during the week of "Claudia" in Stamford, a representa- 
tive of the producer Irene Selznick came backstage and told me that 
there was a possibility that I might read for the role of Stella Kowalski 
in the new Tennessee Williams play, "A Streetcar Named Desire," 
after the role of Blanche had been cast. It was a nutty conversation, 
and I promised to call him before I accepted another job, and then 
put it out of my mind. As things worked out, we took "Claudia" to 
play in Detroit for a week, and when I arrived there, I found that the 
Irene Selznick office had wired to ask me when I could be in New York 
to read for the part. I was impressed by the play, but I was still such 
a baby that I didn't know how seldom parts like Stella came along, 
and I didn't quite realize the significance of it all. I thought it was a 
rather good play, but I was so eager to do a play in New York that I 
would have tried for the role even if I had thought the play was bad. 
Actually, my ability to judge a play has never been very good. I 
had been offered another summer-theatre job, playing Cathy in 



"Wuthering Heights" up at Lake George, in the Adirondacks, and 
between "Claudia" and "Wuthering Heights," on a hot, sunny, beauti- 
ful afternoon in late August of 1947, I went over to the Henry Miller 
Theatre, and, with Irene Selznick, Elia Kazan, and Tennessee Williams 
in the audience, I went out onstage and read two scenes from "A Street- 
car Named Desire." I read without any idea of how to play the part. 
Irene Selznick said just to make it loud and clear, so I tried to make 
it loud and I tried to make it clear. The stage manager read the part 
of Blanche with me in the opening scene, where she comes to stay 
with us, and then he read the part of Stanley in a first-act scene with 
me. During the readings, the reaction around me was so strong I 
could feel the way they were breathing out there that I began to 
think it was an exceptional play. I was told to go back to my hotel 
they would call me. I was staying at the Beekman Tower Hotel, so I 
went back there, sat down on the bed in my room, and looked out the 
window for a couple of hours. Then the telephone rang, and I was told 
"It's yours." I was so excited I couldn't stand it, but I was afraid to 
tell anybody, and besides I didn't know anybody in New York to tell. 
My mother and Kathy were in Detroit, visiting my brother. I got on a 
train and went up to Lake George, where I forgot about Stella and just 
concentrated on playing Cathy in "Wuthering Heights." After a week 
of that, I joined my mother in Detroit, and we drove back to Califor- 
nia, packed up, and moved to New York. 

Rehearsals for "A Streetcar Named Desire" started on October 1st, 
in the rehearsal theatre on top of the New Amsterdam Theatre. I'd met 
Marlon Brando a day or so before that. He seemed like a very nice 
young man, and very shy, but no shier than I was. We rehearsed for 
three and a half weeks. I learned more during those three and a half 
weeks of rehearsal than I had learned in all my life up to then. 
Every day there was something new. The way Elia Kazan, the 
director, began the rehearsals by having us sit and read and search un- 
til we had established the relationships between the characters was a 
revelation to me. Up to then, I had gone on sheer instinct. Now I was 
really learning something. Marlon and I were the most insecure ones. 
We were the untried members of the cast. Marlon kept saying, "They 
should have got John Garfield for Stanley, not me; Garfield was right 
for the part, not me." Of course, Marlon was just wonderful for the part. 
One absolutely extraordinary thing about Marlon, which makes him 



my favorite actor of all time to act with, is his uncanny sense of truth. 
It seems absolutely impossible for him to be false. It makes him easier 
to act with than anybody else ever. Anything you do that may not be 
true shows up immediately as false with him. It is a tremendous expe- 
rience to play in relationship to him; he yanks you into his own sense of 
reality. For example, one thing that made it all so real during my 
year and a half with the show was the way Marlon played the scene 
where Stanley goes through Blanche's trunk. Stanley has found out a 
little bit about her at that point in the play, and is starting to ques- 
tion her, and he begins to go through the things in her trunk, while 
Stella tries to protect her sister's belongings. Marlon never, never did 
that scene the same way twice during the entire run. He had a different 
sort of attitude toward each of the belongings every night; sometimes it 
would lead me into getting into quite a fight with him, and other times 
I'd be seeing him as a silly little boy. I got worn out after many months 
in the play, but I never got bored, even though it was hard and 
painful after a year to keep it fresh, to keep myself stimulated, to 
make it live. 

Even before rehearsals started, the newspapers began building up 
the play. Irene Selznick kept advising us not to get overconfident about 
it just to treat it as a nice little play. After a while, the play got so 
much publicity that we had to work hard against overconfidence. Then 
we began to feel that even if it was the greatest play ever written we 
couldn't live up to the reputation it had before it opened anywhere. 
We kept ourselves closed up like oysters. I was young and impression- 
able, and though I found the role of Stella challenging, I felt like a 
scared rabbit. But Kazan got me to working rather than trembling. I 
didn't understand Stella until he began directing me in the part, and 
then I began to find her. By the time the play opened on Broadway, I 
had learned all I could from the outside from others about Stella, 
and after that I kept discovering new things about Stella from inside 
myself. The New York critics were all terribly enthusiastic about the 
play except George Jean Nathan, who had no patience with Ten- 
nessee Williams' work but the critics don't help you learn anything 
about your part. You learn by yourself, from playing the part. The 
longer I played it, the more I discovered by myself about Stella. One 
thing you discover is that you never quite come to an end of discover- 
ing. If the playwright writes well and makes it possible for his char- 



acters to live, you learn more about the character each night you play 
it. It's like learning more about a girl each time you see her, even if 
she's your closest friend. I played in "A Streetcar Named Desire" from 
December, 1947, to June, 1949, and then I played Stella in the movie 
version. I won so many awards for the part that I became known just 
for that. It's a wonderful part. For one thing, it's such a fully written 
part. It's always easier and more interesting to realize a character that 
is written fully. Very few writers know how to write parts for women 
to play. Tennessee Williams does it better than any other writer I 
know of. He gets the character of Stella across in his writing. Most 
writers become sentimental or overly romantic when they're writing 
about a woman, and that makes it difficult for an actress. 

My basic aim as an actress is to bring a part to life. There are 
times when a playwright will depend on the actor to convey a thought 
or an emotion, or illuminate a thought or an emotion, because the 
writer feels that words won't achieve it, and might even muddy the 
meaning. Sometimes a writer will say to me, "You do it." He may 
deliberately underwrite a part, because he won't know how to convey 
a certain moment. For example, in a television play I did in 1955, 
called "Portrait in Celluloid/' I was supposed to be a witty, all- 
knowing, all-understanding female. But the part seemed to me to be 
underwritten. The character's place in the play was clean and clear but 
not completely conveyed by the writer. Once during rehearsals, when 
I asked Rod Serling, the writer, how to convey the woman's 
feelings, he said to me, "You do it, with a look." That sort of thing is 
easier for an actress to do for the camera than onstage. The camera, 
either for television or for a movie, can come in for a closeup and 
catch the look that will convey the meaning. Onstage, the playwright 
can't get away with the slightest neglect of duty. In film scripts, you 
often find long passages of instructions for the actors. In essence, they 
tell you that the camera will come up close and express what the writer 
couldn't express. 

In acting, there are no rigid rules. After you start rehearsing, various 
unpredictables usually come to light. I start out by getting acquainted 
with my part. I cling to the clues I find even when I'm at home. On my 
way to a rehearsal and, later, each time Fm on my way to the 
theatre I start the ball rolling by bringing the character to life 
physically, picturing to myself how she appears. Once the preliminary 


work is done, I get terribly subjective about a part. I can't trust what I 
think of the character intellectually, so I have to trust my instincts. If 
I get myself involved emotionally and then am able to blend what I 
feel with what I think, I can go ahead and do it. After a while, subtle 
alterations have to be made here and there, and everything starts to 
become molded, and I grow confident in the part. I carry the part with 
me at all times. For instance, after three weeks of rehearsal for "Write 
Me a Murder," in which I speak with an English accent, I began to use 
the English accent and English expressions automatically. At that 
point, I'm bringing the part home, and my family gets in on it. The 
more I bring home with me about the character, the closer I know I'm 
getting to the character. Then, when my husband and my children 
start picking up the speech and mannerisms I have created, it feels 

No matter what I happen to be doing during the day, I am always 
waiting for the evening's performance to start. I can be sending my 
laundry out or planning a meal or taking Sean to the museum, but I'm 
still with my play and with my part in it. I somehow seem to become 
a better person when I'm acting in a play every night. My family life 
becomes more harmonious. Fm less restless in everything I do. My 
husband finds me easier to get along with. In my early days in stock, 
I knew only the bare minimum about acting, and it was all such a 
ball. I had no problems. What I didn't know didn't hurt me. I knew 
I had to get on the stage and off the stage, and I knew a few things 
about each part. My feeling of obligation to the audience went only 
as far as realizing that I couldn't rehearse in front of them. Plays were 
geared for one week in one town. I was young and romantic, and found 
it exciting. I could mess up my part, but it wouldn't make the play a 
flop. Today, I know that my name is on the marquee to draw people 
into the theatre. It's my job to convey whatever the playwright has 
written and to do credit to his words and to him. If anything I do 
unbalances the playwright's concept, I feel that I'm cheating the 
audience, and I can't stand that feeling. 

Acting is unquestionably an art. Duse was a creative artist, who 
could find meanings in plays that no one had ever found before. An 
actor takes an author's words and infuses life into them. Many actors 
today are merely interpretive artists, but they can be more than that. 
It takes more than talent, or even a capacity for greatness, to do it, 



however. It takes learning, training, guidance, and experience. What 
you use in acting is everything you are as a human being. Every actor 
has his own key to acting. You use what works for you. You use what 
was used before Stanislavski was born. Coqueiin once said that if you 
cry onstage, the audience will never cry. When Elia Kazan directed "A 
Streetcar Named Desire," he told us to fight our tears, because in real 
life people try to hold back tears, and that would be more truthful. 
There are people today who say that what Coqueiin really meant was 
that unless you cry the audience will never cry. It's a continuing argu- 
ment. I don't know which is true. To judge by my own experience, if 
you cry real tears, the audience does seem to cry, too. Whatever the 
technique, your aim must always be to achieve command over the 



In the twilight zone I'm in, known as up-and-coming, 
you go to great lengths to build versatility, but no 
one wants it. Everyone wants types. 

I was bora on September 6, 1935, in Morristown, New Jersey, about 
thirty-five miles from New York,- City. My father, Harold Russell 
Scott, Sr., is a doctor a general practitioner in Orange, New Jersey. 
My mother is a housewife. I'm an only child. No one else in our family 
is remotely associated with the theatre. My mother's grandfather played 
the harp beautifully, and also played seven other instruments, and my 
mother's brother played the piano. I'm a pretty good bass-baritone. 
We moved to Orange from Morristown when I was nine. My father 
is the only Negro ever to be appointed to the staff of the Orange Me- 
morial Hospital, in Orange, and the Presbyterian Hospital in Newark. 
He wanted me to go into medicine, and when he first heard that I 
wanted to become an actor, he was furious. When I was ten, he had a 
little white coat made for me that was identical with his, and I used to 
hang around his office wearing it and charming the patients. It would 
have been easy for me to go into medicine, but by the time I was four- 
teen I knew that I didn't want to be a doctor. I wasn't brought up as a 



Negro. In Orange, we lived in a mainly white middle-class neighbor- 
hood o one-family houses. Our house was within a block of an all- 
Negro school, but my parents didn't want me to go to a segregated 
school. I was sent to a school in another zone, and was the first Negro 
in that school. I never had any trouble there, but in my neighborhood 
I was once chased by some other Negro kids, who called me a "nigger/' 
I ran to my father's office and asked him the old question, "Daddy, 
what's a nigger?" He had an immediate "conference" with me about it. 
He took me on his knee and explained that one might expect to en- 
counter this sort of thing from time to time in one's life, and that the 
best thing was not to get angry but to understand what was said and to 
rise above it. My parents were always having conferences and dis- 
cussions with me. As a child, anything I wanted had to be discussed 
what it was I wanted, why, and what I was going to do with it. The 
talks were endless, and occasionally took all the joy out of my hopes 
and plans. I began going to plays when I was eleven. Noel Coward's 
"Present Laughter" and "Annie Get Your Gun," with Ethel Merman, 
were the first ones I saw. I was deeply affected by the whole aura. And 
I was fascinated by the special nature of props onstage mirrors with 
soaped faces, and things like that. We lived across the street from a 
movie theatre, and going to the movies was a weekly ritual, but movies 
didn't mean very much to me. It was the theatre that drew me. 

I attended public schools until I was fourteen, and then I went to 
Phillips Exeter Academy. I had applied for admission to four or five 
leading Eastern prep schools and had been accepted by all of them 
except Exeter, so my parents decided that Exeter was where I had to 
go. In order to become eligible for admission, I had to take summer 
courses in English, mathematics, and Erench, lasting about eight weeks. 
I prepared at Exeter's own summer session. As far as I know, I was the 
third Negro ever to be admitted as a freshman to Exeter. The second, 
Monroe Bowling, was a year ahead of me; he's now a medical interne 
in Detroit. The first Negro had been admitted twenty years earlier. 
I loved Exeter. The way the place is set up, you have to grow up, you 
have to learn to take care of yourself. I was not an honor student, but 
I was good in whatever interested me language, writing, speech 
just as I still am. I was not good in anything that had to do with 
figures or science. It was my father who unwittingly got me started as 
an actor. He always told me that it was terribly important to learn how 



to speak. He felt that a well-read man should be a well-spoken man. He 
was interested in city and state politics, and he believed that a man 
should know how to present his point of view objectively and intelli- 
gently. When I was fifteen, he suggested that I take a course in public 
speaking, so I did, and then, also at his suggestion, I took up debating. 
In my third year at Exeter, I tried out for the Merrill Prize Speaking 
Contest, in the dramatic division. I wanted to recite "The Tell-Tale 
Heart," by Edgar Allan Poe, but "God's Trombones," by the Negro 
writer James Weldon Johnson, was suggested to me by one of the 
teachers. I got huffy, but I agreed to do selections from it, with a chip 
on my shoulder. I did two poems from it and won the prize twenty- 
five dollars. I have since recorded all the poems on a record. In my 
senior year at Exeter, I auditioned for "Captain Brassbound's Conver- 
sion," one of Bernard Shaw's potboilers, and got the title role sort of a 
half-Arab pirate. It was my first real part except for Christmas plays in 
grammar school. I played it for two performances. It was mar- 
vellous. I loved the excitement, the whole feeling. Suddenly I felt that 
I had some status. Other boys were successful in athletics or other 
things, and although I was a good athlete, too, I felt that acting was 
something only I could do in my own special way. Then I was asked 
to try for the Merrill prize again. It had never been won twice by the 
same person. This time, as a previous winner, I had to write my own 
piece. I wrote what I now think is a little piece of slop, about a modest 
man and his simple faith in God, and I won the prize again. At that 
point, I decided that acting would be my profession. In my Exeter 
years, I loved to go to the theatre alone as I still do. One of the few 
indulgences allowed me was the theatre. I'd come home for weekends 
and go to a Saturday matinee, then to a movie, then to another play 
after that, and make the last bus back to Orange around midnight. 

I went to Harvard, and graduated in the class of 1957. I originally 
planned to major in philosophy, and then, in the middle of my sopho- 
more year, switched to English literature. I wasn't a strictly A student. I 
proved that I could make the Dean's List once, and then it was no 
longer important to me. My main interest at Harvard was in the the- 
atre and acting. I was one of a nucleus of five people who took it all 
very seriously: Steve Aaron, who later worked as an assistant to Ingmar 
Bergman; Glenn Jordan, who directed "Another Evening with Harry 
Stoones," an Off Broadway show, in 1961; and two others, who are now 


actors Colgate Salsbury and D. J. Sullivan. In my freshman year, I 
immediately gravitated toward the Harvard Dramatic Club. That year, 
I played three tiny parts in "Marco Millions." I was in my glory. It was 
the first time I'd gone and read for a part and been cast right away. In 
my sophomore year, D. J, and Glenn spearheaded the founding of the 
Eliot Drama Group, primarily for the purpose of putting on classics. 
I was involved, one way or another, in about thirty productions at 
Harvard. I played enormous and wonderful parts Edmund of 
Langley, the Duke of York, in "Richard II" and Oedipus in "Oedipus 
Rex," both with the Eliot Drama Group, and the title role in "The 
Emperor Jones," in the New Theatre Workshop of the Harvard Dra- 
matic Club, for which I had to dye my body black and cut my hair 
very short to make myself look more of a Negro. In my senior year, 
John Eyre produced the American premiere of "Death watch," by 
Jean Genet, at the Pi Eta Theatre in Cambridge. I played Maurice, one 
of three characters in a prison cell. It was an astounding success; we 
played twice a night for a week and made money for John Eyre, who, 
in association with Richard Barr and Clinton Wilder, later produced 
"The Death of Bessie Smith" Off Broadway. We were then invited to 
give "Deathwatch" at the Yale Drama Festival, which we did for one 
night, and after that a director named Leo Garen asked me to repeat my 
role in New York. I very delightedly said yes. I felt I was actually going 
to be able to arrive in New York with a part. I graduated from Harvard, 
went to Europe for the summer, and rushed back to New York ex- 
pecting the play to be done that October. Actually, it wasn't done until 
a year later. In the meantime, I suffered through a dry spell. I lived 
at home with my parents and sat by the telephone waiting for calls 
from producers, from directors, from casting people, from anyone. It 
was a terribly crushing time. My parents were dubious about my 
course. I told my father that I just had to try it, that I'd been told 
marvellous things about my acting at Harvard. I told him I'd never 
been panned. We agreed that I deserved to have a three-year trial 
period. I said, "If somebody I respect pans me during that time, then 
I will abandon acting and I will go to law school." Today, now that 
my parents have seen me as an actor, they are wildly enthusiastic about 
the whole idea. 

In the fall of 1957, through a friend, I got my first New York job, 
for ten dollars a week, in a non-Equity, Off Broadway production o 



"A Land Beyond the River," at the Greenwich Mews, as a replacement 
in the last two months of the play's run. I played a young lawyer taking 
a desegregation case before a court. Then, to earn money, I worked, 
at a dollar an hour, for a firm called Marketing Impact Research, Inc., 
doing various kinds of surveys. In September, 1958, I was in an 
Off Broadway musical, "The Egg and I," in which I played Albert, 
Ma and Pa Kettle's son the romantic interest in the show. Finally, on 
October 9, 1958, "Deathwatch" was put on at Theatre East, and ran 
for nine weeks. It was my first Equity show, and I was paid the going 
rate of forty dollars a week. My parents have always subsidized me in 
my career as an actor. Without that help, it would be impossible. Any 
young actor who wants to go on must either have an independent in- 
come or get financial help from somewhere. For my performance in 
"Deathwatch," I won the Obie Award for the Off Broadway Distin- 
guished Performance of the Year. That was the first real evidence my 
parents had that I had some merit as an actor. After that, I was invited 
back to Cambridge to appear, as a professional actor, with a group of 
undergraduates doing "King Lear." I played the title role for eight 
nights and was paid two hundred dollars, plus expenses. Then I had 
another long dry spell an entire summer with nothing to do. 

On February 22, 1960, I made my Broadway debut, in "The Cool 
World," at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. The play lasted two perform- 
ances. I played Chester, one of a group of juvenile delinquents in 
Spanish Harlem who becomes the kept boy of a wealthy white man. I 
had one long scene fifteen minutes in which I explained to my 
friends why I was doing what I did. For this part, Variety's poll of 
drama critics named me one of the most promising new actors of the 
year. In March of 1960, I played the part of Tiphys-, a pirate 
captain, in an adaptation of Friedrich Duerrenmatt's "The Jackass," 
at the Barbizon-Plaza Theatre. It lasted one night. In May, 1960, I 
played in an Equity Library Theatre production of "Dark of the 
Moon/' as John, the witch boy, for one full week. Edward Albee's "The 
Death of Bessie Smith" was performed one afternoon that June at the 
Actors' Studio, which I was attending at the time, and I played the 
part of the young Negro orderly at the hospital where Bessie Smith's 
lover tries to find help for her after her auto accident. That summer, 
I was in "Program One," produced by the Theatre for the Swan at the 
Gate Theatre, on Second Avenue. I was in three one-act plays: as the 


character Death in "Santa Glaus/' by e. e. cummings; as First Musician 
in "Calvary," by Yeats; and as the King in "Escurial," by Michel De 
Ghelderode. That repertory season lasted thirteen performances. On 
March 1, 1961, I opened as the orderly in "The Death of Bessie 
Smith" at the York Playhouse, at the Off Broadway minimum salary, 
then forty-five dollars a week, and I closed with it on January 7, 1962. 
Ironically, this part was the smallest part I'd had in my entire career. 
I'd been playing very challenging parts up to then, so this was a great 
blow to my ego, and I had to find a way to do the part and not resent 
doing it. It was a matter of getting used to a situation you have to live 
with. I was helped by something I came across around that time while I 
was putting my old college scrapbook together. It was a review in the 
Harvard Crimson, by a young critic named Thomas Schwabacher, of 
my performance as the Duke of York in "Richard II," my first 
sizable part at Harvard. Schwabacher wrote of me, "His acting is 
the best in the entire production, and he makes the agony of 
York's divided loyalty to both Richard and Bolingbroke clear in every 
line and even the dejected shuffle of his steps; Scott proves that a 
comparatively minor part can assume major importance in the hands 
of a skillful performer/' After reading that once more, and pasting it in 
the scrapbook, I decided that if I'd done it once I could do it again. 

All in all, things have come easily to me. To a great extent, it's a 
matter of luck, of being in the right place at the right time. I hope to 
achieve some kind of true prominence in the theatre, to become, I 
suppose in American terms a star. I think this is quite likely to 
happen, because there are enough unusual things about me to make 
me unique though that can take you either way, can be a hindrance 
or a help. The fact that I've been trained in playing the classics as 
well as contemporary plays, and that I sing as well as act, and that I'm 
equipped to do character work as well as play juveniles should help 
me to achieve something eventually. Versatility is a wonderful thing 
once you're a star, but not before. After a while, in auditioning for 
parts, you form a kind of audition-interview personality. My particular 
difficulty is that I'm not dark enough to play an African and not light 
enough to play a white. Not many of the good parts are designed as 
Negro roles. 

I go to the theatre constantly usually alone. I feel obliged to talk 
about it if I go with someone else, and I'm not good at discussing 



performances. It's much too personal You understand what's wrong 
with a performance, but how do you make somebody else understand? 
For the same reason, I find it difficult to try to study acting. When I 
tried studying acting with some New York teachers, I found I was be- 
ing encouraged in bad habits, encouraged to indulge myself. Although 
it sounds egotistical, I really feel that I can learn more on my own. 
I'm fascinated by people. I understand people, and it gives me great 
satisfaction, in acting, to use what I know about them. It's always been 
easier for me to see what other people are like than to see what I am 
like myself, so I enjoy the transformation onstage; I completely enjoy 
becoming another person. What throws me is when another actor isn't 
playing with me won't look me in the eye, won't listen, isn't picking 
up his cues. Once you're onstage, you have to care about getting to 
the audience. As an actor, I feel that I give an audience some knowl- 
edge and information that it might not otherwise receive. 

Building a character is for me a long, agonizing procedure. I'm often 
able to follow through on my initial impulses in filling out the emo- 
tional life of the character, discovering what propels him, but then I 
spend an endless amount of time taking the role apart, figuring out 
how this person will walk, speak, and dress, and what his gestures will 
be. It's only after I get a sense of what his emotional life is like that I 
begin to work on the externals the voice, the walk, the gestures. Does 
he talk with his hands, or does he seldom move his hands? Usually, 
someone who is very inhibited does a lot with his hands. The part of 
the orderly in "The Death of Bessie Smith" is one of the most difficult 
I've had to play, because it is terribly underwritten, or seemed so to 
me. I had to be the one to fill in the gaps, to find reasons for his 
behavior that were not suggested in the script. There was nothing 
written about the orderly's background outside the hospital. What 
I had to go on were stage directions indicating that he is cowardly and 
frightened. Since many of his lines are interrupted, giving him no 
chance to finish what he is trying to say, I had to go to work and 
figure out what he is trying to say. At the outset, I read the script over 
and over again. The most important thing I ultimately found out 
about the part resulted from the author's going back repeatedly to the 
fact that the orderly is frightened. But you can't play simple fear or 
simple weakness; it makes a part dull. So I had to find some way of act- 
ing the part. Together with Rae Allen, the actress playing the part of 



the white nurse, I worked on the idea that the orderly was sexually 
attracted to her but couldn't ever touch her or say anything openly. 
Still, he could stare at her body. In that way, I found something to 
play against. By using the sexual attraction, I was able to show the 
boy's fear. The description given of the orderly is that he is clean- 
shaven, trim, and prim that's all. I had to decide that he is terribly 
concerned about his appearance; his trousers must be pressed, his nails 
must be absolutely clean. Onstage in that play, I'd listen intently to 
the other actors. I wouldn't read a line exactly the same way two nights 
in a row, or take the same pauses, or have exactly the same reaction 
to someone else's pause. At the end of a performance, I would usually 
feel depressed. I don't like curtain calls. If the audience is ecstatic, it 
reminds me that I am an actor. If the audience is stunned or indiffer- 
ent, it's difficult for me to get out of character. Either way, it's hard to 
flash a smile and say "It's me." 



I prefer the fiction and fantasy of acting to the truth, 
but I hope I use truth in experiencing fiction and 
fantasy on the stage. 

I was born on March 20, 1908, in Bristol, England, while my mother 
was on tour with some melodrama or other. Both my parents were 
actors, and there have been others in my family, going back to the 
middle of the nineteenth century. They were, generally speaking, 
what we would call "touring actors." Those were the great days of the 
touring actor. I was christened at the age of six months in Melbourne, 
Australia, where my parents were on tour, acting together in various 
melodramas, including "The Sign of the Cross." My mother continued 
acting, in supporting roles, until a few years before her death, in 
1957. My father, George Ellsworthy Redgrave, who was knowa profes- 
sionally as Roy Redgrave, was, I am told, a very fine actor. When I 
was two, I was carried onstage in his arms, and that was my first 
stage appearance. A year later, my parents separated and my mother 
took me back to England. My father stayed on in Australia, and I 
never saw him again. On the boat going back, my mother met a rich 
tea and rubber planter, whom, years later, she married. I tagged around 
with my mother, living in various theatrical lodgings -or with various 
relatives, and since I didn't know what a home was, I didn't miss 
having one. I didn't have a real home till I was nine, when we 



moved into a big house in London with my stepfather. He was a 
very kind man, and I respected him, but we were never closer to each 
other than we were on the day of my seventeenth birthday, when he said, 
"You know, you and I don't talk the same language." I was a preco- 
cious child in the usual ways: showing off, dressing up, always getting 
up little plays all the signs of somebody who ought to act. But I was 
never stage-struck as a child. The only time I ever felt stage-struck 
was at the age of thirty-four, when I was an Ordinary Seaman in the 
Royal Navy on brief leave in New York during the Second World 
War. Ruth Gordon took me on a theatrical tour of the city. The last 
night in town, on my own, I paid a dollar for standing room at "The 
Corn Is Green," with Ethel Barrymore. I had bought an autograph 
book in Macy's, and I took it backstage and asked Ethel Barrymore 
to sign her name in it. I had been disappointed in the performance 
for the first few minutes. Then something happened that does sud- 
denly happen with great performers you get up on their plane. I 
thought she was marvellous, and I was stage-struck. It may have 
been because, for the first time in my life, I felt outside the theatre. 
I was a successful actor, but all that was behind me. There was a war 
on, I was in an Ordinary Seaman's uniform, and I was stage-struck. 

My stepfather sent me to Clifton College, where I played in the 
"School play" each summer and in the "House play" each Christmas 
and wrote one of the House plays myself. From fourteen onward, I was 
playing everything from Lady Macbeth to Captains Absolute and 
Brassbound. Whenever it was possible to get up an amateur produc- 
tion, I'd do it. Though I was born into the professional theatre there 
were members of the family acting for much longer than anyone now 
living can remember I didn't, as they say, "turn pro" until I was 
twenty-six. My mother didn't encourage me to think about acting as a 
profession. More than once she told me, "It's no life for a man unless 
you're very successful at it and unless you intend to give something to 
it, unlike most people, who just want to get something out of it," At the 
age of sixteen, I grew two inches in one term almost to my full height, 
six feet two and a half and that was another reason my mother dis- 
couraged me. I outgrew my own strength. I'd tire easily. I have a very 
good constitution, and I look younger than my age, but I still tire more 
than I'd like to. I always go to bed for a little while at some time in the 
afternoon or early evening. I think every actor should do that, even if 



he only lies down on the floor for twenty minutes and shuts his eyes. 
Physical vitality is something you have to conserve if you're to be at 
the top of your form when the curtain goes up. I was a very slow 
student, but I scraped into Cambridge, where I did a good deal of 
acting and writing. I wrote stories; I was a drama critic and a film 
critic; 1 edited the Cambridge Review, and I started a literary maga- 
zine that kept alive for two years; I wrote poems. When I left, I 
fancied myself as someone who might work in a publishing house, 
but my only commercial asset was my university honors degree in 
modern languages and English literature. I decided to take up tutor- 
ing, and, to get away from home, applied for a job in a grammar 
school in North London. I wrote for a testimonial to a man who had 
been a master at Clifton and was now the headmaster of Cranleigh, a 
public school, and he wrote back asking me why I didn't come there 
instead. I told him I didn't intend to be a teacher. He suggested that I 
try It for two terms. I did, and stayed three years. I produced and 
designed all the school plays and acted in them, having a wonderful 
time with such plays as "King Lear," "Hamlet," "As You Like It," and 
"Samson Agonistes." I enjoyed teaching, enjoyed sometimes catching 
the imagination of my students, but I was bad at what we call 
the donkeywork. One day, I took my French class to London to 
see a French repertory company, La Compagnie des Quinze, do 
"Noah" and other plays. Suddenly I had a revelation. I understood, 
for the first time, what it was like to be a member of a repertory 
company, without big stars but with a general style of acting. After 
seeing this company, and the way its members worked together all the 
time, I could see how the repertory company was much bigger than the 
sum of its parts. I decided that I wanted to become a director. I imme- 
diately determined to leave Cranleigh, and I gave notice. I wrote to the 
Old Vic, and had an audition. When, after a long wait, I had not yet 
received any contract, I wrote to the Liverpool Repertory Theatre, 
one of the best companies of its kind in the country, and asked for 
an interview, and on my way to take the night train to Liverpool, 
I stopped off at my mother's house and found a contract from the Old 
Vic. In Liverpool, the director and producer of the repertory company, 
William Armstrong, a Scot and a wonderful man, said he had no room 
for me but told me not to give up hope. He would "let me know." I 
brought the Old Vic contract tentatively out of my pocket. "When will 



you be able to let me know, Mr. Armstrong? You see, I have to let the 
Old Vic know." He was astounded. "How much are they offering 
you?" "Three pounds a week." fTll give you four," he said, and I re- 
turned to my schoolmastering by another night train. I was blissful, 
but it did occur to me later that had I lied to him and said seven 
pounds a week, he might have said eight. Anyway, after three months 
I was playing leading parts and he put my salary up to six. At the 
end of my first season, I met Rachel Kempson, who came to us from 
Stratford as our new leading lady. Ten days later, we became engaged. 
Her father was headmaster of the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, 
and we were married in the chapel there. 

I made my first professional appearance on August 30, 1934, playing 
a small role, that of Roy Darwin, a smooth New York operator, in 
"Counsellor-at-Law," and spent two years with the Liverpool Reper- 
tory Theatre. I was an ambitious, arrogant, conceited young man. I 
wanted to play everything. I took it for granted that people should 
offer me everything. And everything began to come so easily to me 
I took it for granted that it would go on that way. Actually, I've never 
been out of work except deliberately, for a holiday, since I started. 
While I was playing in Liverpool, Tyrone Guthrie offered me a con- 
tract for the 1936-37 season with the Old Vic, where I played Mr. Hor- 
ner in "The Country Wife." I found myself playing with Edith Evans, 
Ruth Gordon, and an all-star cast Laurence Olivier was to join the 
company later that was destined for New York. I was invited to go to 
New York with the company, but Edith Evans was staying in London 
to play in "As You Like It" at the Old Vic. She said to me, "You 
don't want to go to New York. Wouldn't you sooner stay here and 
play Orlando in 'As You Like It?" There was not a moment's doubt 
in my mind that I wanted to play Orlando to Edith Evans' Rosalind. 
She had only to look at me. Odd that my eldest daughter, Vanessa, is 
at present performing in London as Rosalind. I have two other chil- 
dren, Corin William named after two minor characters in "As 
You Like It" and Lynn Rachel. All three of my children intend 
to work in the theatre. I was more influenced by Edith Evans than 
by any other performer. I was very much in awe of her. She asked me, 
"What kind of actor do you want to be?" I was taken aback by the 
question. Then she asked, "Do you want to be like Johnny? Do you 
want to be like Larry? What sort of career do you want to have?" 



Suddenly I realized that she was suggesting that if I put thought, 
passion, and labor into it I might indeed be like Gielgud or Olivier. 
For me, Edith Evans has the authentic magic. Claptrap word though 
"magic" may be, it's the only word for the stage. When she comes 
onstage, the stage lights up. She's a very strict person about her own 
profession and is without any of the nonsense. She's a real and dedi- 
cated artist. Her art is her life. Everything she does on the stage is 
interpreted through her own morality. It's the way Picasso paints. It's 
the way Beethoven composed. It's the thing the great artist has that 
makes him different from other people. I don't mean morality in a pet- 
tifogging way. I mean moral values, without which nothing is achieved 
and nothing is created. Part of it is caring enough about what you do 
to achieve something beyond the mundane. One reason for the great in- 
fluence Edith Evans has had on me is that she accepted me in the early 
phase of my career. Until you act the great parts in theatre literature, 
you really don't know what acting is. Orlando for me was a great part. 
I was twenty-eight. Edith Evans was forty-eight. I had been married 
about a year, and Rachel and I had just had our first child. But none of 
that seemed to have anything to do with my special life on the stage as 
Orlando. We played for something like five weeks in repertory, and 
then we took the play to the West End and played it for three months, 
which was pretty good for a Shakespeare run. Acting with Edith Evans 
was heaven. It was like being in your mother's arms, like knowing how 
to swim, like riding a bicycle. You're safe. The late Michael Chekhov 
said once that there are three ways to act: for yourself, for the au- 
dience, and to your partner. Some of the newer theorists say if it's true 
for yourself, it's truthful, which is not so. The majority of actors act 
for themselves or for the audience. I believe that the only way to act 
is to your partner. As a partner, Edith Evans was like a great conductor 
who allows a soloist as much latitude as is needed but always keeps 
everything strict. Strict but free. Never is anything too set, too 
rigid. The stage relationship always leaves enough room to improvise. 
For the first time in my life, acting in "As You Like It," I felt com- 
pletely free. For the first time, I felt completely unself-conscious. Acting 
with her made me feel, Oh, it's so easy! You don't start acting, she 
told me, until you stop trying to act. It doesn't leave the ground until 
you don't have to think about it. The play and our stage relationship 
in it always had the same shape. It was entirely well proportioned, and 



yet in many respects it was all fluid. In the forest scenes between 
Orlando and Rosalind, she would encourage me to do almost anything 
that came into my head. Yet if I had done anything excessive, she 
would have stopped it by the simplest means. Somehow it didn't oc- 
cur to me to do anything excessive. For the first time anywhere, onstage 
or off, I felt completely free. 

The second great influence on ray acting life was Stanislavski's book 
"An Actor Prepares." I had read "My Life in Art" and thought it was 
all very fine but a little fancy. Then I read his other book, and for 
the next six months I was terrifically upset by it. Edith Evans won't 
have anything to do with theory, of course. Everything she does, she 
does naturally. Stanislavski himself would have said, I'm sure, that he 
wasn't teaching anything new only a codification of what all good 
actors did instinctively, without having to think. So many people who 
talk about Stanislavski don't understand him at all. What I got wrong 
at first was to think that you should take him literally, by the letter, 
when you must take him by the alphabet. You've got to soak yourself 

in it. 

Michel Saint-Denis, director of La Compagnie des Quinze, was an- 
other very strong influence on me, beginning with the first time I saw 
his repertory company, when I was still a schoolmaster. He is 
one of my heroes. In 1937, I joined John Gielgud's company at the 
Queen's Theatre and played Bolingbroke in "Richard II," and 
in the same season I played Charles Surface in "The School for Scan- 
dal" and also Baron Tusenbach in "The Three Sisters/' with 
Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, and Alec Guinness. It was directed by Saint- 
Denis. He was, and still is, a great director. Of all the directors I've 
ever worked with, he is the one who best understands the style inherent 
in any good play. There's a style for Shakespeare and a style for 
Chekhov, and Saint-Denis has a sense of this. When Gielgud, who had 
cast me as Andrei, came to me and said he was sorry but Saint-Denis 
didn't see me as Andrei and wanted me to play Baron Tusenbach, I 
was abashed. After three days of rehearsals, Saint-Denis said, "I don't 
know how well you know the character of Baron Tusenbach, but he is 
without any personality, and yet you seem to be trying to make him 
have personality." I said, "But surely an actor must try just that." 
But he said no, the whole point was that this man doesn't make much 
sense when he talks. "Nobody listens to him," he said. I was so dis- 



mayed that I just mumbled the part, and Saint-Denis immediately 
said, "That's it. That's the way this man should talk." When Saint- 
Denis formed a new repertory company, at the Phoenix with a 
nucleus from the Gielgud group I continued working with him for 
a season, and my cup of happiness was full. He took the most scrupu- 
lous care with everything he did. I had utter belief in his judgment. I 
believed in him the way a man believes in his priest or psychiatrist. I 
revered him. I still do. 

We had something very special when we were doing "The Three 
Sisters." I felt, We don't have to worry, we have something beautiful 
here, and if the audience doesn't like it, that's just too bad. For the 
audience. I've felt nearly the same thing since, but not often. It's the 
kind of feeling you get when everything comes together perfectly. That 
does happen, you know, but mostly in permanent companies. I'm sure 
it happened with the Moscow Art Theatre, the Abbey Theatre at its 
height, the Theatre National Populaire. At Stratford, one achieves 
it in one or two productions during the season. I'm sure Joan Little- 
wood had it occasionally in her Theatre Workshop. I made my first 
movie at this time, during the day, while acting in "The Three Sisters" 
at night. I didn't take to movie-making at first, though I love it now. 
At the time, I signed for pictures reluctantly, with Gainsborough 
Pictures. The pay was tempting. Nobody prepared me in the beginning 
for the horrors of picture-making. Nobody explained it to me. I think 
I got the contract by doing a test for which I didn't give a damn. I 
was playing with this wonderful galaxy at night and let everyone 
know it during the day. Naturally, Alfred Hitchcock, the director of 
the picture it was "The Lady Vanishes" did everything to take 
me down a peg. My second picture, "Stolen Life," was with 
Elisabeth Bergner, a great actress and one I adored, and although 
the picture was not very good, I enjoyed making it. The director, Paul 
Czinner, told me that films could do something special that stage 
acting could not; there was a spontaneity that the camera could catch 
when you were first feeling your way in a part, before it became too 
polished. On the stage, one would work for weeks to achieve a certain 
thing, but the movie camera could catch something early that w^s more 
effective on the screen than the polished thing. One of the movies I 
enjoyed doing most was "Dead of Night." I also enjoyed "The 
Browning Version" and "The Dam Busters," and there have been a 



number of others that have caught my imagination. But I confess that 
many of the pictures I have made I have accepted because the money 
they brought me helped me to choose in the theatre only the parts 
I liked. "Dead of Night" is the one of the films that many people, oddly 
enough, seem to remember me for. I played the role of a mad ven- 
triloquist. The director of my sequence in the film was Alberto 
Cavalcanti, and something happened, the kind of thing that happens 
when a particular actor meets a particular director who excites his 
invention in a particular part and works with him on a give-and- 
take basis. Perhaps it's too easy an answer, but I've always believed 
to a certain degree that the effectiveness of a film part depends on 
whether you can say in one sentence, or on a postcard, what the part 
is. For example, about my part in "Dead of Night" you can say, "It's 
about a ventriloquist who believes his life is controlled by his dummy." 
And everyone then is able to say "Ah!" I don't think you can describe 
Hamlet on a postcard. A film has a more immediate impact than a 
stage play, which is not necessarily an advantage for the actor. Hamlet 
leaves a deeper impression on you when played on the stage than any 
role I can think of in a film. There are differences in the satisfaction I 
get in acting in the two mediums. Some of the most exciting moments 
in the theatre come in rehearsals, when you're first discovering or ex- 
ploring a part. The camera can catch these early moments on film. 
But in the theatre you go on for several weeks making natural each 
time what would otherwise become stale. During rehearsals, you find 
the little truths, and as time goes on, you can work to enlarge your 
part without making it seem enlarged. I made two films in Hollywood 
i n i947_"Mourning Becomes Electra," which didn't come off as a 
story told through a lens and "Secret Beyond the Door," directed by 
Fritz Lang. Hollywood was all right for three months, but when I 
stayed on to make the second picture, I couldn't take the publicity, 
the status symbols, and all that foolishness. 

Every part is different, and every new part demands new and 
fresh consideration. I try to beware of the overly intellectual thing in 
approaching a part. Some parts I feel I can get in a flash. That's when 
it's most dangerous. Every good actor knows immediately whether 
a part is sympathetic or not. But I'm very scared of parts in which I 
give a good first reading. I think I have a quickish intelligence, but 
it's dangerous to go on a radio actor's intelligence, which is the knack 



o giving a good first reading of a part. Nevertheless, some of 
these parts have turned out to be the best things I've done; others I 
didn't get right until I had tried them in several ways. When I first 
saw the Graham Greene play "The Complaisant Lover" in London, 
where the part I took on for the Broadway production was played 
by another actor, I didn't take to the play or the character. Then, 
after I'd read it, I was attracted to it and I said I'd do it. The character 
is a dentist, an extrovert, and a farceur who plays practical jokes. I am 
not notably either an extrovert or a farceur, and I don't like practical 
jokes, so I had to get to work and work hard in a special way on that 
one. I asked my own dentist quite a lot, and I bought a dental- 
association tie and wore it in the play. I found out how much money 
dentists make, on the average, because in preparing for any role I 
investigate the character through the method of social realism. One 
must be aware of the financial pressures on that kind of character. 
I tried to determine such things as whether the dentist in the piay 
could afford to have his own wine cellar, which he can't, or whether 
he would send out for wine. Then, for some reason, I thought he 
should have a mustache, and because I couldn't think of any dentist 
I knew who had a mustache, I asked about until a dental technician 
told me she knew one. So I had a mustache made to wear. Later, I 
decided I would not wear a mustache. In any case, I wouldn't grow 
one. Then I changed my mind again. I'm the sort of actor who is helped 
by a bit of disguise. Paradoxically, a bit of disguise can help to show 
that aspect of yourself which is essential to the part. Like a lens. I don't 
like to wear my stage personality all day. It should be something you 
look forward to assuming in the evening. There have been times when 
my parts affected me in my real life, but I discovered that it's bad for 
the part when that happens. Mostly, it happened some years ago, when 
I misinterpreted Stanislavski and thought it a good idea to live the 
part. Now I never play a part for more than eight or nine months, 
because I want to prevent it from affecting me too strongly. 

It's important to have failures as well as successes as an actor. The 
theatre is commercially tied to success. Therefore, to be able to per- 
form, the actor must be in successes, and that leads him to pursue a 
false ambition. I've made films sometimes to have money in the bank. 
One hopes, of course, to give one's best to everything, and turning a 
sow's ear into a silk purse is not such a bad proverb to go by, but the 



truth is that not all plays or films inspire you to the same degree, and 
the imagination is not liberated in the same way. What inspires me is 
belief, of one kind or another and I don't mean just theatrical be- 
lief, because actors have to make believe. Even in melodrama, there 
has to be some reality. It may have a false premise, but it must 
proceed logically outward toward truth. 

If I couldn't act, I'd like to be a writer first of all. I could just be a 
writer, but a mediocre one. I've written three plays. I'm no great 
shakes as a playwright, but my first play, "The Seventh Man," a one- 
acter about Arctic whalers in the eigh teen-nine ties, written in three 
days when I was with the Liverpool Repertory, is still performed. My 
second was a children's play, and my third a good play, I think is 
an adaptation of Henry James's "The Aspern Papers," which I 
directed in London. There are Sunday painters. I'm a Sunday writer. 
In acting, however, a mood, an emotion, an idea, or a theory can be 
conveyed more quickly, more succinctly, with more immediacy, than 
in any other art. That's the peculiar advantage the actor has. Acting is 
the most immediate art of all. The audience is either caught up entirely 
or not; it's now or nothing. 



Actors have eyes and ears. We know we are on the 
stage; we see the curtain go up; we see the audience 
out there. But once in a while, if we are lucky, we get 
lost, for a few moments, in the part we are playing, 
and then we can reach the heights. 

I was born on August 28, 1930, in New York City. My real name is 
Biagio Anthony Gazzara, but my family always called me Ben, or 
Bennie. My mother is the youngest of ten children of a Sicilian family 
named Cusumano. Her brother Mike migrated to America in 1900 and 
had brought all but one of his brothers and sisters over here by 1903. 
He eventually opened a bar called Mike's, at Second Avenue and 
Thirty-ninth Street. This was a neighborhood full of Italian immi- 
grants, and it was where the family settled and where my parents met. 
I have one brother, Anthony, who is five years older than I am, and 
who works as an executive at the New York Athletic Club. My mother 
was forty-five when I was born. My father, himself one of twelve 
children, was a moody man who drank a lot. He worked at brick- 
laying, carpentry, and other skilled jobs. We moved frequently, from 



one cold-water flat to another, but we always stayed in the same 
neighborhood. Between the Gazzaras and the Cusumanos, there were 
over two hundred members of our family in the neighborhood. We 
were inclined to hang around with each other. We ate together in one 
another's houses, drank together, and had parties together, and, of 
course, there were always funerals and weddings, too. Family or no 
family, I felt very lonely as a small boy. Then, when I was six, I joined 
the Madison Square Boys' Club. It was the center of social life for all 
the kids in the neighborhood, so I went along with the others. I played 
punch ball and basketball and other games in the gym, and we were 
shown movies Laurel and Hardy comedies, and so on. When I was 
about twelve, some of the boys in the group told me they had joined 
what was called the drama section of the club. A former actor named 
Howard Sinclair had charge of the dramatics. My voice had just 
changed, and was very deep, and apparently the boys told Sinclair 
about that, because one day when I was playing punch ball in front 
of the club Sinclair stopped on his way in and asked me if I wanted to 
be one of seven Arabs in a play he was putting on. At first, I said no, 
but he persuaded me to give it a try. So I was one of seven Arabs in a 
play called "The Gods of the Mountain/' by Lord Dunsany. All I had 
to do was wear a sheet and wait around for alms, and then die at the 
end. It didn't mean much to me, but I nevertheless decided to join 
the drama section. 

A little later, Sinclair, who had become interested in me, cast me in 
the leading role in Justin Huntly McCarthy's "If I Were King." At 
rehearsals, he would tell me about his own experiences in the theatre, 
and I began to dream of becoming an actor. I had found a goal. Also, 
I began to enjoy the attention I was getting because I was doing the 
play. I started counting on it. Every day after school, I would wait 
for seven o'clock, when Sinclair arrived at the club. Sinclair was a very 
handsome man, with Anglo-Saxon features different from the Latin 
faces I was used to. He was tall and lean, with silvery hair and a 
mustache, and I considered him cultured and strange. Coming to know 
him was like finding a new father, from another world a kind of world 
I had only dreamed about before. His world seemed strange and new 
and wonderful to me. It was as though I had found a new home. 
Before I knew it, I was playing the leads in all the plays we put on. It 
was marvellous to get Sinclair's approval and to feel his enthusiasm. 



I really began to live on the stage. The theatre stimulated me in a way 
that was entirely new to me. Sinclair would tell me about actors like 
Eleonora Duse, Sarah Bernhardt, and Edwin Booth, and I would day- 
dream about putting on makeup and costumes, and hearing the 
applause. By the time I was fifteen, I had definitely decided to become 
a professional actor. Whenever I felt doubts, I would tell Sinclair about 
them, and he would say he was sure that I would have a place in the 

I attended a parochial school a Carmelite school, Our Lady of the 
Scapular in our neighborhood, and then went to Stuyvesant High 
School. I disliked high school, and after about two years of it I left, 
without telling anyone at home. I was a truant. I spent the next fifty- 
six days wandering around New York, going to the movies to see 
the actors who had become my favorites Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, 
James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson. In another way, I was also 
fascinated by John Garfield. He was the first actor I had seen in the 
movies who felt close enough to my own life to be reachable. Eventu- 
ally, I told my mother that I had left school, and said I would return 
to school if I could go to a small uptown coeducational parochial 
school, where I thought I would feel more at home. So I went to St. 
Simon Stock, in the Bronx. I still wanted to be an actor, but I felt that 
I needed an education. When I was sixteen, Sinclair left the club, and 
my interest in dramatics began to lag. One summer during high school, 
I worked as a soda jerk at the Whelan's drugstore at the corner of 
Forty-second Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. Another job I had during 
high school was running an elevator in the Hotel Shelton, on Thirty- 
fifth Street. I graduated from high school in 1947. 

That fall, I entered C.C.N.Y. night school, with the intention of 
studying engineering. I had put aside any thought of acting as a way 
of earning a living. For six months, I worked during the day for a 
shop on Canal Street as a silver replater and buffer, and was able to 
bring home twenty dollars a week. Next, I worked in a place that made 
slipcovers for furniture; my job was to prepare the piping for the 
slipcovers. At the end of my first year at the night school, a boy who 
lived in our neighborhood told me about Erwin Piscator's Dramatic 
Workshop at the New School for Social Research. One night, he took 
me with him to watch one of the productions o the New School. It 
happened to be one that Piscator had supervised himself "The Flies/' 



by Jean-Paul Sartre. I was stunned by the theatricality of what I saw. 
Piscator believed in the epic style of theatre. I was impressed by his 
use of music, and his use of film on the stage, and his use of lighting 
to make a very small stage seem enormous. It was unabashed theatrical- 
ity. I decided to quit night school and try to join the Workshop. Not 
having money for tuition, I auditioned for a scholarship. I did a few 
scenes from "If I Were King/' 'They Knew What They Wanted," 
and "Seventh Heaven" for one of the teachers, a man named Raiken 
Ben-Ari, and I got the scholarship in September, 1948. I stayed there a 
year and a half. Studying with Ben-Ari, who had corne from the 
Habima Theatre, in Moscow, I was working with a man who himself 
had worked with Stanislavski and Eugene V. Vakhtangov, and I began 
to learn that there was a craft of acting. Piscator directed me only 
once in "Macbeth," in which I played the part of Malcolm, one of 
Duncan's sons. Piscator believed that it was the purpose of the theatre 
to educate. He knew every aspect of the theatre: acting, staging, 
directing, lighting everything. About that time, I began to go to 
Broadway plays, and I began to hear reports of something else in the 
theatre a departure from the Piscator school of acting. In 1948 
and 1949, the talk in class and everywhere else that students of acting 
got together was about the newly founded Actors' Studio. 

The first play I saw on Broadway was one that astonished me 
Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie/* with Laurette Taylor. 
Her acting impressed me so deeply that I went back to see the play 
five times. I had no way of knowing it then, but now I realize that I 
was watching a truly great performance. It was the only great acting 
I had ever seen until I saw John Gielgud in "The Ages of Man/' in 
1959. Six months after "The Glass Menagerie" closed, I went to see 
Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire." I thought it was the most 
exciting play I had ever seen. All the performances were good. Kim 
Hunter's acting impressed me enormously, and Marlon Brando's got 
me terribly wrought up. I reacted strongly to the raw emotion, the 
animal vitality, in his acting. I found something new and poetic in all 
the characters in the play. I had heard at the Dramatic Workshop that 
Marlon Brando and Kim Hunter had gone to the Actors' Studio, and 
I decided to audition for it. My first audition, which I passed, was for 
Daniel Mann. I did some scenes from "Night Music/' by Clifford 
Odets, for my second audition, for Lee Strasberg, Elia Kazan, Cheryl 



Crawford, and Mann, and I was accepted. Around the same time, I 
got married to a former child actress named Louise Erickson. We were 
divorced four years later. 

I went to the Actors' Studio regularly for three years, and I still go 
occasionally. In those years, I don't think I missed a single session. I 
felt inspired almost the same way I had felt as a kid with Sinclair. 
Also, once again, I had a place to go that felt like home. For the first 
time, I began to see action myself. In 1953, we did Calder Willingham's 
"End as a Man," first at the Studio and then at the Theatre de Lys, in 
the Village. I played the lead Jocko De Paris, a monstrously rebellious 
student in a horribly discipline-ridden military college in the South. 
I felt wonderful in my part. I felt wonderful onstage. The play was 
great, and so were the notices. Then the play was moved uptown to 
the Vanderbilt Theatre, and I felt that my career had really begun. 
"End as a Man" ran, altogether, from September, 1953, to January, 

In March, 1955, I opened on Broadway in Tennessee Williams' 
"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," in which I played Brick. When we opened 
in Philadelphia, I felt that the rehearsal period three and a half 
weeks had been too short. I felt that I had only a shell of a per- 
formance that there hadn't been time to produce valid results. During 
rehearsals, Elia Kazan, the director, and I had worked on the part 
enough to create certain mannerisms, but I felt that that was all. I 
wasn't able to analyze what was wrong with my performance, but friends 
who were in the audience told me I sounded sonorous and inhuman. I 
started to retrace my steps after the opening in New York, which 
actually meant I was rehearsing in front of the audience, I stayed with 
the play for seven months, but I never felt the part as a real experi- 
ence. My words were measured, vocally precise, and empty. When I 
was supposed to show anger, it was the vocalization of anger rather 
than the experience of being angry. Later that year, I got the part of 
Johnny Pope, a dope addict, in Michael V. Gazzo's "A Hatful of 
Rain." At that time, if I wasn't crying or hysterical onstage I thought 
there was no drama to my role. Now I realize that simpler behavior 
can be more touching. I began to find this out during the run of 
"A Hatful of Rain." After playing Johnny Pope from November of 
1955 to June of 1957, the play closed, and I went to Florida on location 
to make the movie version of "End as a Man," called "The Strange 



One" my first movie. Then I rejoined "A Hatful of Rain" on the 
road. Six months later, in Milwaukee, it came to me that even in a 
part as serious as this one there was room for humor, and that one 
must be less rigid and look for humanity. My love scenes with Vivian 
Elaine, who for part of the run played my wife, became more real. The 
love for the wife is there, even though the man has the dope addiction. 
I found I could catch the attention of the audience by pleading with 
her quietly. 

The best Broadway part I ever had was in "The Night Circus/* in 
1958, with Janice Rule, whom I married three years later. I had the part 
of Joy, a young man who is running away from life. The play lasted for 
exactly seven performances. In addition to appearing on the stage, I've 
played leading roles in about twenty television dramas, including 
"Moony's Kid Don't Cry" and "Body and Soul-." I would like to be 
able to say that television is good training for an actor, but I don't 
believe it. It doesn't offer an actor enough opportunity to develop. 
I accept television roles, however, because it's necessary for an actor 
to keep acting just as any man has to keep working. When I was 
offered the role of Lieutenant Manion, the moody young Army officer, 
in the movie "Anatomy of a Murder," I had many doubts. I walked 
the streets wondering whether to accept it. The role would be too 
easy for me, I felt. Like television, it wouldn't give me enough to do, 
enough to solve, I finally decided to accept it, because I thought it was 
important for me to be in a successful movie. This one had all the 
elements of a smash, including Otto Preminger, a popular producer- 
director, and the big box-office name of James Stewart, and that's what 
it turned out to be. But its success didn't affect me in any way, because 
I didn't have enough of the responsibility for carrying the movie. As 
the star of the show, James Stewart had that responsibility. He is a 
bankable star, and was counted on to bring in the dollars at the box 
office, and he did. I had nothing to do with it. 

Nothing is pleasanter than doing something successful. But success- 
ful acting isn't necessarily good acting. An actor needs success in order 
to get opportunities to be good, so he concentrates on achieving 
success, and in the process he may lose whatever it is that has made him 
good. In the movies, if an actor's success comes when he is just starting, 
he is in danger of becoming a business expert and a tax expert. If his 
devotion is to how much his last movie has grossed, he is in danger of 



stopping, and never, developing as an actor. Instead, he may just 
repeat what won him attention the first time. He loses the desire 
and the patience and the will to work at his craft, so he ceases 
to grow as an actor. I feel I'm a much better actor now than I was a 
few years ago; I find that the more I do, the more colors I can use. 
When I started, I was locked up, in many areas. I came out rebellious 
and hostile, which was the way / was. Then I found other colors: 
humor, romantic feelings, and what I call my middle human 
register. I take parts wherever they are. Right after making "Anatomy 
of a Murder/' in 1959, I went to Coral Gables, Florida, and played 
in "Two for the Seesaw" for two weeks in stock. The following summer, 
I played the title role in "Epitaph for George Dillon/' by John 
Osborne and Anthony Creighton, all over the summer circuit the 
Cape, Westport, Ogunquit continuing to explore the part in each 
performance. I feel freer now more my own master. Even movies are 
changing; one can be more selective, and one doesn't have to live in 
Hollywood. I've made only one movie, "Reprieve," in Hollywood. In 
the summer of 1960, I went to Italy to make "The Passionate Thief/' 
with Anna Magnani and Toto. I played a professional thief who tried 
to pick the pocket of a rich man on New Year's Eve. Magnani and 
Toto kept getting in my way and preventing the theft. It was a diver- 
tissement after all the heavy roles I had been playing. My next movie 
"The Young Doctors" was made in New York in 1961. I played a 
young doctor, upstanding and idealistic, in conflict with an older 
doctor, played by Fredric March. I loved that story. It had a mellow 
tone, and the conflicts the young doctor underwent were external, for 
a change, rather than internal. 

I married Janice Rule in November, 1961, and we live in a seven- 
room apartment on Riverside Drive. When I'm not at home and not 
in the theatre, I like to spend time at P. J. Clarke's bar, nursing a 
beer. I feel happy when the place gets crowded. 



When Fm onstage, I usually just want to be quiet, 
but the audience gets me going. I know the audience 
is expecting something from me, so I try to live up to 

I was born on August 15, 1931, in Cincinnati, the fourth of six chil- 
dren. My father, John C. Rule, is a dealer in industrial diamonds, and 
now lives, with my mother, in Vallejo, California. My parents have al- 
ways moved restlessly from one place to another. When I was about 
eight, we moved to a suburb of Chicago called Glen Ellyn. We lived in 
a white frame house on a quiet street at the edge of town. I shared a 
room with my sister Kathy, who is one year older than I am. Now 
she is married, has three children, and lives in Pasadena, California. 
My sister Anne, two years older than I am, is also married, also has 
three children, and also lives in Pasadena. My sister Emily, four years 
younger than I am, is one of twins and is married to Denis Sanders, a 
movie director in Hollywood, and has two children not twins. Her 
twin, Ralph, lives in Seattle and works for a pharmaceutical company. 
Charles, three years older than I am, and the eldest of us, is married, 
has one child, and lives in New York except when he is singing in the 
chorus of touring musicals. He often sings in the choruses of Broadway 



shows. I was always closer to him than to anybody else in the family. 
He wanted to become an opera singer, and he taught me to love music. 
I was raised as Catholic, and as a child I sometimes thought about be- 
coming a nun. 

All four of my grandparents lived in Springfield, Missouri, where 
my parents were born, and when I was a child, I used to visit them 
every summer. These visits were the happiest time of my life. My 
parents were never enthusiastic about my becoming an actress. When 
I was ten, I was more interested in ballet than in anything else in the 
world. At home, I was forever dancing to records of Strauss waltzes 
the only classical, or semi-classical, records we ever had. I went to the 
movies every Sunday, but I wasn't crazy about them. The only one I 
went to see more than once was "The Great Waltz/' with Luise 
Rainer; I liked it because it had Johann Strauss music I knew. I was 
always up on my toes, and my parents liked showing me off to the 
neighbors. I kept asking to take lessons, and finally, that year when I 
was ten, started in at a school in Glen Ellyn. It was held in a kind of 
loft, about eighty feet by forty, and was run by Mme. Sonya Dobro- 
vinskaya, who now teaches in New York, and comes to my opening 
nights. I took an hour-and-a-half lesson every night, and practiced by 
myself for half an hour, and also spent about an hour helping teach 
the younger children. I kept that up for four years. Saturdays, I'd take 
lessons all day. Mme. Dobrovinskaya used to watch over me like a 
mother. I always wanted to be like Melissa Hayden, but I was never 
strong. It was always a great struggle for me to maintain my strength. 
In my senior year of high school, in Chicago, I studied ballet four hours 
a day and practiced in between lessons. At first, my paternal grand- 
father paid for the lessons. My father thought that ballet was frivolous 
but all right for a girl. My grandfather died when I was fourteen, and 
then my mother managed to pay for the lessons out of our grocery 
budget. My brother Charles used to take me to see ballet in Chicago. 
He'd keep track of everything coming to Chicago on tour, and we'd 
always be first in line to see Alexandra Danilova or Alicia Markova. 
Mme. Dobrovinskaya's daughter was dancing in the biggest night club 
in Chicago, the Chez Paree, and when I was fifteen I got a job dancing 
there, too. I worked there for several months, at a salary of about fifty 
dollars a week. I'd get home at three o'clock in the morning. Danny 
Thomas was playing the club at the same time, and after the late 



Saturday-night.,.show we'd go to Mass together. He used to tell me I 
ought to get out of the night club and go to college. He said he'd send 
me himself, because the Chez Paree was all wrong for me. But I told 
him that I wanted to be a dancer and would do anything to stay in 
dancing. Actually, I hated night-club work. I would come out to do my 
special toe dance, and the people would take one bored look at me 
and then turn their backs and start eating and drinking and talking. 
One night, Monte Proser, one of the producers of the musical "High 
Button Shoes," came to the Chez Paree and saw me. He offered me a job 
as a dancer in the chorus of the road company of the show, then in 
Chicago, and I grabbed it. My salary went up to seventy-five dollars a 
week, but it wasn't the money thaj: was the important thing. It was 
being in a musical show, which meant being in a real theatre, with 
an audience that had come there for the purpose of seeing the show. 
The company starred Jack Whiting, Audrey Meadows, and Ellen 
Hanley, and my brother Charles got a job with the company as a singer. 
After I'd been in the show for a few weeks, Charles took me to see my 
first play, "A Streetcar Named Desire/' with Uta Hagen and Anthony 
Quinn, at a matinee on r day when we weren't performing in "High 
Button Shoes." We were both floored by it. It was pretty hard to go 
back to "High Button Shoes" after that. Shortly afterward, we went to 
see "Medea," with Judith Anderson, and that was pretty powerful, too. 
But though I was impressed, I didn't think in terms of doing that 
kind of thing myself. 

Around that time, my parents moved to Antioch, Illinois, so I 
moved in with a family in Chicago whose daughter I'd known in ballet 
school. At the same time, I enrolled for my senior year in a professional 
children's high school a high school for working children. When I'd 
been in "High- Button Shoes" for four or five months, the company 
moved on to Philadelphia, and Charles and I went with it. With my 
earnings, I bought my first fur coat, a mink-dyed muskrat. We were 
with the show for four weeks in Philadelphia, and then it closed. Im- 
mediately after the last performance, Charles and I took a late train 
for New York. That was where we both wanted to be where we 
wanted to study. I'd been dreaming of studying at George Balanchine's 
School of American Ballet. I moved into a small room in a small hotel 
on West Forty-sixth Street and started taking lessons at the School 
of American Ballet. I was quickly disappointed. It was rigid and cold, 



with eight or ten teachers, none of whom took any special interest in 
me. In Glen Ellyn, I had thought of myself as the belle of the school; 
here everything seemed to be mechanical, and there was no flexibility 
in the teaching. It was exciting to be in New York, but the excitement 
was all bottled up inside me; I was wholly involved with myself and 
what I was doing. The only person in the city I knew besides my 
brother was Jerome Robbins, the choreographer of "High Button 
Shoes/' whom I had met right after I came to New York, through 
Monte Proser. I looked him up, and he told me he was planning 
to do the choreography for another musical, Robert E. Sherwood's and 
Irving Berlin's "Miss Liberty," and promised to give me a job dancing 
in it. He suggested that in the meantime I try out for the Copacabana 
line, and recommended me to the club's dance director. I was hired 
one of eight dancers in the line. I was there for about two months, 
appearing in production numbers. I'd come out in a scanty costume 
and a very ornate hat, and sort of flow about the stage. You had to 
know something about dancing in order to do it, but it wasn't danc- 
ing. After that, I went into rehearsals for "Miss Liberty." One night 
during the Philadelphia tryout of the show, in a dance number in 
which I was lifted by three other dancers, one dancer was late in setting 
me down, and I broke my ankle. I had my ankle in a cast for three 
weeks and was out of the show for six. I became very restless, and felt 
I had to do something. A friend suggested that I use the time to study 
acting with a teacher named William Hanson, who gave lessons in his 
apartment. I still hadn't thought much about acting. In those days, it 
seemed sort of immoral to me to be glamorous. Compared to ballet, 
acting seemed highly undisciplined and very frivolous, I kept on with 
the lessons just to be doing something. When my ankle was better and 
I rejoined the show, I continued to study acting. I wasn't exactly in- 
spired, but I wanted to be prepared to try it if the dancing didn't work 
out. After seven months in "Miss Liberty," I became a member of the 
chorus of the musical show "Great to Be Alive!" and was also under- 
study to Bambi Linn. A little later, I was offered a seven-year movie 
contract, with options, with Warner Brothers. I had been making 
seventy-five dollars a week in the chorus, and under my Hollywood 
contract I started making five hundred dollars a week. It was as simple 
as that. 

I arrived in Hollywood one morning in the fall of 1950, and my 



agent met me at the airport. That afternoon, he took me over to the 
lot and introduced me to two of the Warner brothers and to other 
executives and some of the writers. We got off to a friendly start. I 
moved into a one-room apartment in Burbank, right near the studio, 
and then I reported for work on my first movie, "Goodbye, My 
Fancy/' in which I played a college student, the young daughter of a 
college president, played by Robert Young. A congresswoman, 
played by Joan Crawford, returns to the college, her Alma Mater, to 
get an honorary degree and renew her acquaintance with Robert 
Young. That first day, I began to feel uneasy. It suddenly occurred to 
me that I had never acted before. The director, Vincent Sherman, 
asked me to start crying. Well, I had never cried in front of anyone in 
my entire life. It was part of my upbringing not to do a thing like that. 
The director kept saying, "Start crying, start crying/' and I couldn't. 
I kept saying, "I can't do it." It went on this way for a while, and sud- 
denly I did start crying. The director said, "That's it, that's what I 
want. Let's shoot it." That's the way I became an actress. When the 
movie was finished and I saw it, I thought I came out looking terrible. 
When I first arrived in Hollywood, everybody said about me, "She's 
pretty, but can she actT After the picture came out, everyone said, 
"She looks terrible, but she can act." I now adore seeing movies, but 
I've never been in a good one myself or felt I did anything good in the 
ones I have been in. 

I appeared in "Starlift" for Warner Brothers, then broke my con- 
tract and signed with M-G-M, for which I made "Holiday for Sinners," 
with Gig Young and Keenan Wynn, and "Rogue's March," with Peter 
Lawford. On the whole, I found that life in Hollywood was deadly 
boring. Everyone in the community was involved in the motion- 
picture industry. No matter how a conversation started out, it eventu- 
ally got around to the subject of picture grosses. The only good thing 
about my life in Hollywood was a little-theatre group I heard about, 
headed by Arthur Kennedy. I went around there, and started studying 
with Michael Chekhov, the actor and teacher. Everything I learned was 
elementary how to attack a scene, and things like that but it all 
deepened my interest in and respect for acting as a profession. In 1952, 
on vacation from the studio, I came to New York, and was sent by an 
agent to see Richard Rodgers, who was getting ready to start rehearsals 
for his musical "Me and Juliet." I told him that I was hung up in 


Hollywood, that it was disastrous for a young person, that I'd gone 
out there not really wanting to go, and that I was miserable there. 
Rodgers talked to one of the Metro executives and got the studio to 
let me break my contract. I felt as though I'd been freed from jail. 
Rodgers hoped I might work out in a part in "Me and Juliet/' He sent 
me to a voice teacher, and I tried to work on my singing, but I didn't 
think I was making much progress. Then Rodgers sent me over to 
meet Joshua Logan, who was holding readings for "Picnic/' by Wil- 
liam Inge, which he was producing with the Theatre Guild and 
was scheduled to direct. I didn't know anything about anything in 
those days. I had no Broadway show-business friends, except for 
Jerome Robbins and Rodgers, who has always been very kind and 
fatherly to young people. Logan gave me the script of the play and I 
looked it over that night, and the next afternoon I read for the part of 
Madge Owens before Logan, Inge, and some Theatre Guild people. 
That same day, Logan told me the part was mine. Then he told me that 
before I read for him, he hadn't planned to go ahead with the play, 
because he couldn't find the actress to play the part, but that after I'd 
read he could "see" the character of the girl. Then Kim Stanley came on 
and read for the part of Millie Owens, the kid sister, who was supposed 
to be fourteen. I'd never seen her before. She came on looking much 
too old for the part she was almost twenty-eight but after one read- 
ing I knew she was perfect. We hit it off from the very start. I felt her 

I didn't really like "Picnic" after the first reading, yet something 
about it attracted me. There was something Inge was saying about 
pretty girls that hit home. It was that most people treat pretty girls 
as pretty girls and nothing else as though nothing could be wrong if 
a girl was pretty, so she had no right to be miserable. The play ran 
for four hundred and seventy-seven performances, and I was with it 
almost all the way. Every day, it seemed, gave me some further revela- 
tion about acting. At that time, I was a beginner. Today I can think 
of things I did in the play that I had to work so hard for then, and I 
realize that they'd be easy for me now. There was a kind of frantic 
grabbing at anything at some memory of something, perhaps that 
might give me the feeling I needed for the part. Now I know how to 
build a part in a more stable way. I discovered that acting enabled me 
to do things that I could never do through dancing. Acting gave me 



an opportunity to develop empathy. I was and still am inarticulate 
in my real life. A pretended life, I discovered, could be much deeper 
than a real life. I really began to live in my acting. There -was a long 
stretch in the run of "Picnic" when I played the whole thing off Kim 
Stanley. She was the first person I'd ever acted with who made me feel 
that acting was a dignified profession. I began to respect what I was 
doing. After the play had been running for a few months, most of the 
actors in the cast had gone pretty dead, but not Kim. She's a very alive 
person on the stage. You know she's alive to whatever you do. 
Acting with Kim is like going into a room full of people and finding 
one person you have a feeling of rapport with. At one point in the play, 
I said to Peggy Conklin, who played my mother, "It's not enough to be 
pretty." It was hard for an audience to sympathize with a girl whose 
only problem was that she was the prettiest girl in town. I felt that 
the audience wasn't with me. But Kim and I believed that these two 
sisters were very vulnerable to each other. Kim helped me to develop 
in a rounded fashion what the two sisters felt for each other. Just in 
chatting with her about the characters, I began to understand what 
the sisters might have been like off the stage. We worked out what kind 
of things they would have liked and disliked, and what would have 
amused them. Kim's lines were right for her. Every time she spoke to 
me onstage, the audience would laugh at me derisively. I felt in the 
beginning that the character I played was being hurt by her gibes. I 
wanted the audience to feel sympathy for me, and like me, so I drew 
on things inside myself to make it seem that the older sister felt in- 
ferior in some way but was inarticulate was hurt by the younger sister 
but was unable to defend herself. Kim was the only one in the whole 
play who understood what I was trying to do, and she played along 
with it. It made her part even better. And after a while the audience 
stopped laughing at me. 

When "Picnic" closed, in 1954, I felt somewhat lost. I went up to 
Maine for a rest, but I couldn't stand the quiet. I couldn't unwind 
that quickly, and had to come down to Boston. My next play was "The 
Flowering Peach," by Clifford Odets, based on the story of Noah's Ark, 
in which I played Rachael. After that, I was in "The Carefree Tree/' 
a Chinese play about peace, by Aldyth Morris, at the Phoenix Theatre. 
It was a flop, but I thought it was very sweet. Then I went down to 
Acapulco and made a film, "A Woman's Devotion," with Ralph 



Meeker, for Republic, and not long after that I made another film, 
"Gun for a Coward," with Fred MacMurray. I read a lot of plays, 
and in the summer of 1957 I played the leads in "Bus Stop" and "On- 
dine" at the Olney Theatre, in Olney, Maryland. Following that, I 
did a great deal of television one show after another. Late in 1958, 
I appeared on Broadway in Michael V. Gazzo's "The Night Circus/' 
with Ben Gazzara, whom I married in 1961. I have two small daugh- 
ters Kate and Elizabeth by a previous marriage, to the writer 
Robert Thorn. 

It gives me marvellous satisfaction to make an audience react to a 
situation as if it were real. Then I feel wildly alive. And you have the 
advantage of knowing that you can drop that life if you don't happen 
to like it. What is most difficult for me is playing myself. When a 
director says to me, "You are everything this character is, just be your- 
self," and I try to do it, I feel I'm exposing every part of myself. Some- 
times I find myself thinking how wonderful it would be to be a sales- 
girl and have the peace of knowing exactly what you would be doing 
day after day. Actually, though, being a salesgirl would be deadly for 
me. What really interests me is the essence of life, rather than life 
itself. I would rather live at a heightened level than have to live the 
dull, commonplace life of the average person, and onstage I can do 
just that. 



I do the things the guy who wrote the play has written. 
A writer should write. An actor should act 

I was born on August 31, 1897, in Racine, Wisconsin. My father was 
in the wholesale hardware business, and he was a very devout 
Presbyterian Church elder. My mother, whose maiden name was 
Marcher, was a schoolteacher. My real name is Frederick Mclntyre 
BickeL I was the youngest of three brothers; one of my brothers 
is now dead, and the other, John M. Bickel, is a retired vice- 
president of the Carrier Air Conditioning Company. Jack gives won- 
derful talks before Rotary Clubs something I could never do. My 
father used to tell us stories when we were little boys, and he played 
a marvellous Santa Claus at church socials. The very first time I ap- 
peared on a stage was when I was eight and played a little page in a 
church festival. After that, I gave poetry recitations at church and in 
grade school. For some reason, I favored a poem called "Poor Little 
Mose." I went in for oratory at my high school in Racine, and won 
the Wisconsin State Oratorical Contest in 1915 with, God help me, 
a speech by Henry Grattan. When I was about ten, my father took me 
and my brothers to see Maude Adams in "Peter Pan" when the touring 
company came to Racine. Also, I always used my dimes to go to see 



stock-company productions and vaudeville shows with other kids. I 
saw plays like "Wedded but No Wife" and "My Partner." I had a 
natural desire to get up and be seen and to show off, but I never 
thought of myself at that time as a potential actor. However, in 1916, 
when I went to the University of Wisconsin, where I majored in com- 
jnerce, I began to take part in amateur theatricals. I spent a couple of 
summers working in the Manufacturers Trust Bank in Racine, in- 
tending to become a full-fledged banker someday. 

In the spring of 1918, I left college to join the Army. After a three- 
month training course, I was commissioned a lieutenant in the artil- 
lery, and for the last few months of the First World War I was stationed 
at Fort Sill, where I taught equestrianism. After nine 01 ten months 
of service, I returned to the university, and I graduated in 1920. In 
the summer of 1919, 1 had worked for the National City Bank in New 
York. Then, in 1920, I was sent to take a one-year training course, 
with about thirty-five other guys, for the National City Bank's program 
of foreign banking. I lived in a rooming house in Brooklyn run by a 
sweet old landlady, an ex-vaudeville actress, who was nutty about ac- 
tors and was always talking about acting. She said I should become an 
actor. Before the training course was two months old, I had an 
emergency appendicitis operation. I went under the ether thinking that 
I wanted to go on the stage. When I came out of the hospital, I asked 
the bank for a year's leave of absence, notified my family of what I was 
going to try to do, and started making the rounds of casting offices. I 
still go to the annual picnics held by my old bank pals at the Sleepy 
Hollow Country Club, in Tarrytown, New York. The big joke every 
year is "When is Bickel coming back?" At any rate, as an aspiring ac- 
tor, I beat the pavements, posed as a model for Charles Dana Gibson, 
Neysa McMein, and others, and worked as an extra in a movie, called 
"Pay the Piper," with Dorothy Dickson, that was being made in 
Astoria. I also found an agent. Then I played for one day in the movie 
"The Great Adventure," with Lionel Barrymore, again as an extra, 
for seven dollars and fifty cents, seventy-five cents of which, of course, 
went to my agent. I then took lessons with Mme. Eva Alberti, a great 
teacher of acting, who had taught at the American Academy of Dra- 
matic Arts. She'd make me do life studies imitations of people I'd 
seen in subways, for example and she called me "son." She'd say to 
me, "The world is your workshop, son." Everything she told me came 



as a revelation. She once told me, "Son, if you don't come off the stage 
feeling you want to go right back on again and do it better, there's 
something wrong." 

I made my first professional appearance, as Fred Bickel, in Decem- 
ber of 1920, playing the two-line part of the Prompter in the David 
Belasco production of Granville Barker's adaptation of Sacha Guitry's 
"Deburau." I also understudied the juvenile lead, which I got to play 
for one week. Then, as Frederick Bickel, I played a good part, in "The 
Law Breaker/' by Jules Eckert Goodman. In 1922, I went to Dayton, 
Ohio, for a season of stock twenty-two weeks, and a different play 
each week. I didn't know hdw to relax when I acted in those days, but 
even so acting wasn't difficult for me, because I was playing young 
men my own age. I have found out since that relaxation is the prime 
requisite for acting. In those early days, I'd lock myself in my bed- 
room and read my lines, getting the feeling and outlining the feeling 
for myself. I'd been pretty good at memorizing ever since I was a kid. 
And I suppose I did just naturally a lot of what the Method people 
talk about so much today digging into your own past for clues to char- 
acterization. In 1924, when I was appearing in Chicago and through- 
out the Midwest in a play called "Tarnish," with Patricia Collinge, I 
changed my name, because I found out there was a pretty well-known 
German comedian named Bickel. 

In 1926, I met the actress Florence Eldridge, who had just played 
Daisy Fay in "The Great Gatsby," and we were married the follow- 
ing year. In 1927 and 1928, as a general-utility actor, I toured for the 
Theatre Guild, playing supporting and minor roles in "Arms and the 
Man," "The Guardsman," "Mr. Pirn Passes By," and "The Silver 
Cord." I was doing what I wanted to do. One of my first big leads on 
the West Coast was the role of Anthony Cavendish the John Barry- 
more character in "The Royal Family," both on the stage and in the 
movie, which was called "The Royal Family of Broadway." The ex- 
perience was a tremendous one for me, and the effect on me of the 
character I played was very powerful. For a while, it was hard to break 
away from it. While I was in the play, my wife used to tell me I was be- 
ing John Barrymore around the house. Ordinarily, the character 
doesn't really take you over. When the curtain comes down on a play, 
that's it. 

There's so much mumbo-jumbo about acting. Spencer Tracy, one of 



the finest actors of our time, once told me, "I just learn my lines." 
Laurette Taylor really explained the way it is for actresses when she 
told me, "I just pretend." Little girls, particularly, know what it's all 
about. They do Method acting naturally. Some of the best actors are 
the ones who aren't too crazy about it. Jack and Lionel Barrymore 
didn't like it. They used to say they didn't respect it. Lionel did etch- 
ing and composing, and Jack was originally a caricaturist, and they en- 
joyed doing those things more than acting. Lionel used to tell me, 
"All you do is listen to the other fella and then you answer him." An- 
other time, he told me, "You sit on a hot stove, you burn your behind, 
you jump up." The Barrymores didn't think about it too much. They 
just did it. Another one like that is Spencer. I'm nuts about Spencer. 
Working with him in anything is always a real joy. I think I'm a ham 
who likes to act in whatever there's a chance to act in. Live television 
is the hardest acting to do. Tape is less frightening. I don't have too 
many years left in my life, and I like to travel, and I'd rather do a 
picture and get it over with than do a play. From November, 1956, to 
March, 1958, my wife and I played in Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's 
Journey Into Night," and that was too long. I've made close to seventy 
pictures, beginning with "The Dummy," in 1929, and including "Jeal- 
ousy," "Footlights and Fools," "Ladies Love Brutes," "Paramount on 
Parade," "True to the Navy," "Manslaughter," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. 
Hyde," "The Marriage Playground," "Smilin' Through," "The Sign 
of the Cross," "The Eagle and the Hawk," "Design for Living," "Death 
Takes a Holiday," "The Barretts of Wimpole Street," "Les Mise- 
rables," "Anna Karenina," "Anthony Adverse," "A Star Is Born," 
"Nothing Sacred," "The Buccaneer," "Susan and God," "Bedtime 
Story," "The Best Years of Our Lives," "Death of a Salesman," "Execu- 
tive Suite," "Alexander the Great," "The Man in the Gray Flannel 
Suit," "Middle of the Night," "Inherit the Wind," and "The Young 
Doctors." I never watch my own movies on television. I don't like to 
stay up late, for one thing, and, for another, I'd find it depressing. I 
learned about the importance of relaxation when I started making 
pictures. The director of "The Marriage Playground," Lothar 
Mendes, was the first person to mention it to me. He said, "Freddie, 
when I say 'Camera/ all it means is relax." When you are watching a 
play, the actor on the stage you go along with is the one who's most 
relaxed. Some of us older actors are very much inclined to tense up. 



Younger actors, the ones devoted to the Method, have the ability to 
relax. It's a terribly important element. 

What I enjoy is working on a scene until I finally get it right. It's 
fun to know you're hitting it. There are advantages in being in a 
long run. You should see plays after they've been around for a while if 
you want to see the best performances. It's the relaxation again. The 
actors are more relaxed in their parts. When I first consider a part, I 
find myself judging the play as a whole. Simultaneously, I try to decide 
whether I can play the part, whether it's dramatically interesting, 
whether I feel I can make it make sense. It's a mistake, I think, to go 
for parts, as some actors do, instead of for the play as a whole. I'll 
never do a part in a play or a picture that makes me lose my self- 
respect. Two of the best plays I've been in both with my wife are, 
I feel, "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and Thornton Wilder's "The 
Skin of Our Teeth," and the best movjes are "The Best Years of Our 
Lives," "A Star Is Born," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and "Death 
Takes a Holiday." In a way, though, I've liked everything I've been in. 
I'm kind of a dimwit. I just like to act. 


When Fm onstage, I often think, What the hell am 
I doing here? I realize that I want to go home. 

I was born on October 16, 1925, in London. My father, Edgar Lans- 
bury, who was a lumber merchant, died when I was nine. My mother, 
the actress Moyna MacGill, had earlier been married to Reginald 
Denham, the actor and producer, and I have a stepsister, Isolde, four 
years older than I am. We used to put on dances and imitations to- 
gether for the family. My mother now lives in Hollywood and does 
quite a bit of acting on television. She's a far more ambitious actress 
than I am. She wanted me to become an actress, but she could never 
by any stretch of the imagination be called a stage mother. Her best 
period as an actress was in the early twenties, when she succeeded 
Madge Titheradge as Desdemona to Basil Rathbone's lago in 
"Othello," in London. She played Lady Brockhurst in Sandy Wilson's 
"The Boy Friend" in the 1954 Broadway production. I have two 
younger brothers identical twins. Edgar Lansbury, who lives in 
Weston, Connecticut, has designed scenery for the stage and is now 
producing an Off Broadway play. Bruce Lansbury lives in Hollywood 
and is a production executive at C.B.S. and is writing a play. Both 



are married and have children. One of my grandfathers, George Lans- 
bury, was a famous politician of the twenties and thirties; he was 
leader of the Labour Party the Opposition from 1931 to 1935. As a 
child, I was taken to large political rallies. When my grandfather 
spoke at the Albert Hall, I would stand, along with several thousand 
other people, and sing "Jerusalem." It was awe-inspiring. As a little 
girl, I thought I might become a politician. My grandfather was a 
strong supporter of women's suffrage. One of the first bits of acting 
I did, when I was seven or eight, was an imitation of what I thought 
women's-suffrage leaders must be like, for the family. It started me 
off on being a bit of a wag. I've always had an ear that picks up ac- 
cents and speech mannerisms. I was a morose little girl at times. I was 
very sensitive, very easily hurt, and I would cry when my mother left 
me to go to the theatre. And I would retreat into make-believe. From 
the time I was eight until I was twelve, I'd go for days pretending to 
be other people. I was also terribly stubborn. And I'd do all sorts of 
things just to make people laugh. I was born under the zodiacal sign 
of Libra, and I'm a pure example of a Libran; I see both sides of 
every question, unfortunately and fortunately, and I long to break 
away from the course I'm forced to stay on, and light a few bonfires. 
My mother has always had a wonderful spiritual quality sensitivity, 
an understanding of people. When she is working, she has a sense of 
well-being and accomplishment. Acting is a thing that she feels she 
needs to do, and she can't understand my attitude. She works on scenes 
from Shakespeare all by herself, for herself, whereas I am strictly 
practical and won't lift a finger unless I get paid for it. 

In 1935, when I was ten, we moved to Hampstead, on the outskirts of 
London, and I attended the South Hampstead High School for Girls. 
The headmistress, Muriel Potter, was the sister of Stephen Potter, and 
Stephen Potter had been my father's best friend, which is how I hap- 
pened to go there. Stephen Potter and my father had played cricket 
together something Englishmen do on weekends. When the war 
started, the schools were all moved out into the country, but I didn't 
want to leave home and go to boarding school. I was a great homebody. 
So Mother said, "Look, are you interested in studying acting?" I said, 
"By all means, anything, but don't make me go to boarding school/* So 
arrangements were made for me to continue my studies at home, with 
a tutor, and to attend evening classes in diction, dancing, and sing- 



ing. After six months, Mother said, "Look, if you're really in- 
terested, you should be going to a proper dramatic school/' I loved 
the idea. It seemed very glamorous to me. In 1940, I attended the 
Webber-Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art, in Kensington, 
on a scholarship my first part was as a lady in waiting in a school 
production of "Mary of Scotland" until August, when things 
got hot in the war. That was right after Dunkirk, and everything 
looked black. We had no ties to keep us in England. Some distant 
cousins in Brawley, California, were instrumental in getting us evacu- 
ated to America. My mother and my small brothers and I came to 
America late in the summer of 1940, sponsored in this country by 
Charles T. Wilson, a Wall Street businessman, and his wife, with 
whom we stayed for a while at their summer home on Lake Mahopac, 
In New York. 

In September of 1940, I enrolled in the Feagin School of Drama 
and Radio, in Rockefeller Center, on a scholarship arranged by the 
American Theatre Wing. I didn't know what the pickings were in 
schools, and I didn't care. I lived from the fall of 1940 through the 
spring of 1941 in an East Ninety-fourth Street town house with a 
terribly kind family named Mr. and Mrs. George W. Perkins. I had 
breakfast and dinner there and took sandwiches to school. I was fif- 
teen and very grown up. English girls are, for the most part. By the 
fall of 1941, we had moved to a one-room apartment on Morton 
Street, in Greenwich Village, and the boys were going to the Choate 
School; eventually they both attended U.C.L.A. In the spring of 1942, 
Mother went off to tour Canada with Anna Neagle in a variety show 
for the R.C.A.F. units training there. At the Feagin School, I became a 
character actress. In Congreve's "The Way of the World," I played 
Lady Wishfort, who is supposed to be sixty, which was starting off on 
a weird foot. After that, I played a leading part Lady Windermere. I 
never had any trouble making an ass of myself. I had a sort of come- 
dienne thing about me. I was never the ingenue type luckily, since 
there were too many girls who looked like ingenues. But I would 
have been a character actress in any case. It was my bent from the be- 
ginning. In comedy, you automatically lose your own identity. You 
characterize away from yourself. In comedy, I am able to recognize the 
humor in life and relate it to myself. It has something to do with my 
having a sense of humor of my own. I tend to see the funny side of 



things always. It interests me. Playing the mother in the movie "All 
Fall Down," I had an opportunity to play a composite human being 
to make you laugh and cry at the same time. To be funny, I've always 
realized, one must be deadly serious. 

One of the other students at the Feagin School, Arthur Bourbon, 
who studied by day and danced at night, said to me one day, "Angie, 
you ought to do an act/' He worked out an imitation of Beatrice 
Lillie singing Noel Coward's "I Went to a Marvellous Party" for 
me and then set up an audition for me with an agent, and in the 
summer of 1942 I found myself in Montreal with a job in a night 
club called the Samovar, at a salary of sixty dollars a week. I roomed 
with a Yugoslavian singer known professionally as Blanca, who was 
also on the bill. She is now married and has a couple of kids. She 
was a wonderful, peasantlike girl, and she taught me a great deal 
how to put on makeup, how to do my hair, how to dress. When I first 
arrived, I stayed alone at a place called the Ford Hotel, where strange 
men knocked on my door at night. Arthur Bourbon had told me to 
stay there, because it was the cheapest place. I was very innocent, very 
green indeed. When older men made advances, I didn't know what 
they were doing. I moved to a rooming house. The night club was 
always filled with R.C.A.F. men. It was a bit of home to them, to 
see an English girl making a fool of herself. When I received my first 
salary check, I sent most of it to my mother, who was still on tour. 
The job lasted six weeks, and then I went back to New York, where 
the twins had returned from a summer on Long Island. I packed 
them up and sent them back to Choate. At the end of her tour, 
Mother had gone to Los Angeles, and she wrote saying how much 
cheaper it was to live about twenty-eight dollars a month for a one- 
room apartment. (We had been paying forty-two dollars a month for 
ours, in New York.) And the movies were there. So I joined her. We 
went round to all the studios looking for jobs, but we didn't get 
anything. At Christmastime, we both got jobs in Bullock's Wilshire, 
the department store. Mother was in the toy department and I was 
a wrapper. Mother soon got fired, because she spent too much time 
playing with the toys. After the holidays, I was kept on, as a sales- 
woman in cosmetics. They thought of training me to be a buyer, but 
I was no good at mathematics. I could never figure the retail and 
wholesale prices. In June, 1943, a struggling young actor I knew, 



named Michael Dyne, who was being considered for the title part in 
the M-G-M movie "The Picture of Dorian Gray," told me they were 
looking for a young English girl for the cast. I got the afternoon off 
from the store and went out to M-G-M and saw the casting director. 
I was sent on to see George Cukor, who was going to direct "Gaslight/* 
with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, and I was told I would be 
tested for the part of the Cockney maid for that movie, instead. 
Mother helped me prepare for the test, which I made during a week's 
vacation from the store. First, I was given a costume from Character 
Wardrobe, and then they took a lot of trouble with my hair and 
makeup. They padded me out to make me look bigger. I did a scene 
with an actor named Hugh Marlowe, in which Nancy, the maid, sort 
of seduces the character later played by Charles Boyer. It was a scene 
from the play that wasn't in the movie. I can't say I was frightened. 
I was terribly interested in how it was all done. After the test, they 
said I was too young. But Louis B. Mayer insisted that they put me 
under contract. So I signed a seven-year contract, with options, with 
M-G-M, at a salary of five hundred a week. I had been making twenty- 
six a week in commissions at Bullock's. I called them up immediately 
and quit, over the telephone. Then Cukor took me for the part of 
Nancy after all. 

It's strange, but I've never worked in England. I'm a pure product 
of American movies. I celebrated my eighteenth birthday on the set 
of "Gaslight." They had a lovely cake, and the stars were wonderfully 
sweet to me. I thought, Well, this is making movies. I never felt I was 
that rare-orchid kind of thing. With me it's always been a matter of 
being ready to work at nine o'clock and achieving what I can. I 
happened to see "Gaslight" not long ago on television. I was amazed. 
I thought, My God, how did I have all that assurance? I have much 
less assurance now. In those days, I suppose, I went ahead on trust. 
There's always been joy, exuberance, and fun in movie acting, but I 
have never been blinded by it. I had an opportunity to do all the 
things that would have led me to the glamorous side of a screen career, 
but I didn't seem to want that. At M-G-M, I came in at the end of 
a very lush period. L. B. Mayer was always terribly nice to me. He 
always seemed interested in how the family was getting along. He 
wanted to put my brothers under contract, but Mother wouldn't have 
it, and we both felt that it wouldn't be fair to do that to the boys. 



I was always able to go and chat with L. B. Mayer mostly about the 
family or about the movies. I suppose I was an enigma to him. When 
Dore Schary became executive vice-president in charge of production 
and studio operations, in 1948, I began to get lost in the shuffle. Any- 
way, once I was settled in, I found being under contract terribly 
confining. From 1943 to 1950, I made thirteen movies, including "If 
Winter Comes," "State of the Union," and "Samson and Delilah/' 
The year after "Gaslight/' I also did play in "The Picture of Dorian 
Gray" as the young girl, Sibyl Vane, who is seduced by Dorian Gray. 
It was a lovely part, sort of the antithesis of Nancy, the maid, who is a 
bit of a heavy. I sang a song as Sibyl "The Little Yellow Bird" and 
for some reason it has always been associated with me since. 

I was married for the first time in 1945, to the late Richard 
Cromwell, the actor. The marriage lasted nine months, and, thank 
goodness, did a great deal for me. I learned the meaning of marriage 
and a lot of other things, and I had a better idea of what it was all 
about when I was married again, in 1949, to Peter Shaw, a William 
Morris agent, who is now executive assistant to Robert Weitman and 
Benjamin Thau at M-G-M. We live in Malibu, in a house overlooking 
the sea, and have two children Anthony, born in 1952, and Deirdre, 
bom in 1953. I also have a twenty-year-old stepson, David. In 1952, 
when Anthony was six months old, I started doing a six-week season 
of summer stock in the East, playing in "Remains to Be Seen," by 
Howard Lindsay and Russel Grouse, and "Affairs of State," by Louis 
Verneuil. Anthony slept all over the place. We trouped round together. 
I did it because Peter and I were sort of struggling along, and one 
could make a thousand dollars a week in summer stock. After that, 
I did a lot of acting for television half-hour films based on W. 
Somerset Maugham short stories and things of that sort. It paid awfully 
well and didn't take me away from home. Actually, I prefer making 
movies to acting on the stage, because it doesn't take so much out 
of you. I like that. Stage demands are so stringent. You're thinking 
about the part all the time. I hate the idea of having people see me 
and think I'm not very good. I worry about it all night. The me- 
chanics of it worry me, too whether I'm going to have a cold, and 
so on. You've got to be absolutely up to pitch to play on the stage. 
I have a great sense of responsibility about it. Maybe that's the reason 
I can't enjoy it. It means pushing all the way. 



I have a split life, and being an actress is a very small part of it. 
My role as a mother always comes first with me, and the making of 
a good life. That to me is Number One. I've always had to be shoved 
into acting. Because I've never had the ego or whatever it is on my 
own, my moves as an actress have not been brought about by me. 
They've been the result of my being talked into it by producers, writ- 
ers, agents, my mother, and my husband. I find myself wanting to stay 
home all the time. Living the life of an actress has always been difficult 
for me. If I feel I'm going to sacrifice the children to it in any way, I 
don't want any part of it. Other actresses may make acting their whole 
life; that's what they want, and they put wonderful labels on it. It's 
never been that driving thing with me. My children have recently be- 
gun to understand just what the hell Mother is doing. I'm not too com- 
fortable about it. I hope my son doesn't want to do it, too. It's a 
terribly unsatisfactory life for a man, when you think of a struggling 
young actor with a wife and babies to support. I wouldn't wish that 
on anybody. My daughter has an awful lot of the ingredients of an 
actress in her mimicking, an awareness of the peculiarities of people 
even though she's still shy and gauche, as little girls are. Acting on 
the stage, as far as I'm concerned, is very hard work. I've always had 
parts where I'm screaming or talking my head off. But I've never felt 
a compulsion to woo and hold an audience. Some actors say they 
love to hold an audience in the palm of their hand then they 
absolutely taste the nectar. For me, the compensations are different. 
To have a chance to perform something well and be successful in it 
is satisfying. Then, when you get a letter, as I do occasionally, from 
someone in the audience, saying, "You gave me the greatest enjoy- 
ment I've had in the theatre in five years" that is tremendous. 

When David Merrick, the producer, sent me the play "A Taste of 
Honey/' in 1960, I said no at first. I couldn't imagine how to arrange 
it domestically. I didn't want to leave Malibu for New York in the 
winter- I wanted to hole in, garden, cook, and just generally be at 
home. Then I had a call from the director, who said what a wonderful 
part it was the part of the girl's irresponsible mother. Then Merrick 
came out. He's a very persuasive man, but I made very steep demands. 
He met them. So then I had to do it, and I got terribly enthusiastic. 
When I first read the play, I read it objectively, which is how I 
ordinarily read a play for the first time. Then, almost immediately, 



I put myself in the part. I'm a pretty good judge of my own 
capabilities the things I'm best at. If the ingredients of a character 
are totally understandable to me, if I know the character, if I know 
people like the character, I know I can play it. I can work my- 
self up. I agreed to do the play for only six months, however. I 
moved Anthony and Deirdre to New York, and we sublet an apart- 
ment on Fifth Avenue. Some nights, in playing a part onstage, I 
can give the part more validity than I can on other nights. It's 
pushing all the way, however, and especially when the audience has 
mass ennui. Everything I do is the same in every performance. It's set. 
But there are some nights when I have an extra impetus, especially 
if I feel I'm ringing bells with the audience. If I give it that extra 
push some night, it may not always mean it's a better performance. 
I go on technique. You get it set and it goes along. If you try to do 
too much, the more you do, and the more you try to win an audience, 
the more it turns away. It works that way, somehow. You have to go 
on technique. You can't live it night after night. Creative interpre- 
tation counts for a great deal, but if you maintain that you can't say 
a line until you feel it, to me that seems to be lack of discipline. Born 
actors are like sponges. They go through life soaking up idiosyncrasies 
and storing them up in themselves all the little bits and pieces of 
what people are and what people do. When I act, it's completely apart 
from me. It's like putting on a suit of clothes that doesn't belong to 
me but fits me. 

I like acting in movies better than on the stage, because you don't 
have to keep on and on with it. I'm a traitor to the cause. I don't 
indulge myself in the enjoyment of acting. I have a tremendous sense 
of duty about the theatre. For instance, I have a strong sense of guilt 
about being late. I become all professional as soon as I leave my home 

as soon as I have my coat on and am on my way. I feel I have to be 

early. And if I don't put the makeup on just right, I worry about it 
all night. I have a great sense of responsibility. Maybe that's the 
reason I can't enjoy it. Actors are accorded the open door. It's amazing 
that this welcomeness has survived as long as it has, especially with 
television and the constant exposure. I should think it would have 
waned, but I find that the actor is still accepted by everyone every- 
where. I have a tremendous urge to retreat from acting. But when 
you're a woman and you're recognized as an actress, you feel that if 



you give it up, you may lose your attractiveness for your husband, and 
for your friends; you're afraid of replacing it with just being a house- 
wife. My greatest gratification in acting, now that I'm older, is simply 
that I get to play some fantastic parts. The key, I think, is that I seem 
to ring a bell with women. They do understand the way I get at 
them in my parts, and portray women not as famous stars portray 
them but as women are. Movies are now beginning to take a 
more realistic approach to life and its problems, and this is in 
my favor. In the past the era of the thirties and forties women 
were portrayed in a too narrowly defined way. There were no nuances 
in a script. A woman was a woman; a mother was a mother; a femme 
fa tale was a femme fat ale. The parts have more appeal for me now. 
However, when it comes to stage parts I feel so often that it isn't 
worth it all the necessary splitting up of the family, and being away 
from my husband. When everybody pushes me to do it, I feel, Oh well, 
all right. But I don't want to wait to be happy. I want to start being 
happy now. 



On the stage, you have to find the truth, even if you 
have to lose the audience. 

I was born on April 21, 1916, in Chihuahua, Mexico. My father's father 
came to Mexico from County Cork and was, according to my mother 
who now lives in Los Angeles, is a social worker, and keeps half the Mex- 
ican population of the city alive a blond and blue-eyed version of me. 
My mother, who is an American, is also blond and blue-eyed. I have 
a younger sister, Stella who is married to a screenwriter named Martin 
H. Goldsmith. My father was tall six feet two, like me and adven- 
turous and talented. He tried to work at everything bullfighting, 
railroading, painting. Right after I was born, my father was con- 
scripted in the Mexican revolution. Everything around us was blown 
to hell. My mother took me and walked four hundred miles in seven 
months to El Paso, to get away from the fighting and to look for my 



father, who was reported to be in the north. We stayed in El Paso 
for two years, living in a shack near the river. My father found us in 
El Paso. When I was four, we headed for California. At five, I was 
working with my parents in the fields near San Jose, picking walnuts. 
We lived in one migrant camp after another beautiful years for 
me, in a way, because I remember how all the people used to sit 
around campfires, playing guitars, singing, eating beans from a com- 
mon kettle. It was all quite wonderful. Then we moved to Los An- 
geles, where my father got a job taking care of the animals at the zoo 
on the lot of the Selig Polyscope Company. Our first home in the 
city was a one-room shack near the railroad tracks a horrible, mar- 
vellous room, with a piano box for our dining room. My grandmother 
my father's mother, who was a Mexican and who lived with us 
and I slept next to a wood stove. My father was embarrassed about 
the poverty and dreariness around us. He painted colorful pictures on 
our windows to make the scene look better. My father had no fear. 
One of the animals he took care of was a panther that I fell in love 
with and who was in love with me. I'd go to the zoo and stare at her 
for hours. Then my father got a job as a cameraman at Selig. He 
worked with Rudolph Valentino and Ramon Novarro. As a kid, I 
wanted to be a priest. Until I was twelve, I was a very pious young 
boy. I believed in the Lord to the letter. When I was thirteen, my 
grandmother got very sick, and Aimee Semple McPherson came to see 
her and made her well. After that, I started preaching for Aimee Sem- 
ple McPherson and playing the saxophone for her at meetings. When I 
was twelve, my father died. We were so poor that I had to make the 
cross for my father's grave. I became the man of the family. I quit gram- 
mar school, and became foreman for the Camarillo Apricot Growers 
Association until a truant officer found me and sent me to junior high 
school for a year. Then I got a job as a foreman in a mattress factory. 
My hands to this day show the marks of being chopped up by the 
springs in the mattresses. I shined shoes and sold papers for extra 
money. I had little education, and I thought I had three choices for 
a career to become a gangster, a prizefighter, or an actor in the 
silent movies. I was literally tongue-tied until I was nineteen. 

When I was fourteen, my mother remarried. I couldn't accept 
my stepfather. I went to live with my grandmother in Los Angeles. 
When I was eighteen, I wanted to join a local drama group, but 



it wouldn't accept me, because o my speech impediment. I had 
an operation to correct it, and paid for it on time over the next five 
years. But I was a nervous kid. I was tall and scrawny. I always 
looked old, even when I was a kid. I went in for boxing, and got five 
dollars for a fight, and also got my nose broken. For a while, I even 
worked as a janitor for my stepfather, who had a window-cleaning 
business, and later I cleaned windows for him. Then, when I 
was eighteen, I met a girl at a party, and when I met her mother, 
the mother took me in hand. She educated me. She made me 
read a book a week. To this day, because of the routine she made 
me follow, I can't go to sleep until I've spent an hour reading some 
book or other. This woman got me to listen to classical music, to 
understand philosophy, to appreciate life. At night, I went to the little 
drama group. They had accepted me after my operation but still 
wouldn't let me talk, so I mostly played pantomime parts. Through a 
friend, I got a small part in a movie called "Parole," with Alan 
Baxter. When I told my grandmother I was in a movie, she said, 
"You are going to be a great actor." She was pretty sick by then, but she 
kept telling me she wasn't going to die until she had seen my movie. 
I had to carry her into the Pantages Hollywood Theatre for the 
opening, because she was too weak to walk. I was just a face in the 
movie, but I got notices in reviews in Variety and the Hollywood 
Reporter as "a face." My grandmother died a week later. 

After that, nothing happened in my acting career for a while. With 
the son of the woman who was educating me, I hopped a freight 
train out of Los Angeles, and we went to Arizona and Colorado. I 
spent six months working on ranches or as a dishwasher in restaurants. 
While I was in Ensenada, just over the border in Mexico, I read 
a notice in a newspaper saying that Cecil B. deMille, at Para- 
mount, was looking for Indians to play in "The Plainsman," star- 
ring Gary Cooper. I took the next freight back to Los Angeles, 
shaved with Borax soap in a gas-station washroom, and applied for 
a job as an Indian with deMille. He asked me if I was an Indian, and 
I said yes, I was a Blackfoot. Being Mexican, I may actually be part 
Indian. He asked me to say something in the language, and I made 
up some gibberish, and he said I would have to learn to speak Chey- 
enne. When he asked me, I told him that I rode well, although 
I had never been on a horse in my life. He gave me the job and a 



four-page single-spaced monologue to learn, in what was supposed to 
be a Cheyenne version of English. I got an allowance of ten dollars 
a day, which I used for riding lessons. The monologue I learned for 
that movie served me well for the next twenty years, in all kinds of 
movies. I used the same accent for Chinese dialect, Hawaiian dialect, 
and never got a single complaint. During the filming of "The 
Plainsman," I objected to the way I was supposed to deliver this 
monologue, as though I were addressing ten thousand Indians. 
I spoke up and said I thought I should address my remarks to Gary 
Cooper. The various assistants around deMille said he should fire me, 
but he said, "The boy is right." He let me do the part the way I 
thought it should be done, and he then tried to place me under 
personal contract to him. I turned the offer down. I met my wife, 
Katherine deMille, while I was making "The Buccaneer" with deMille. 
When I first asked her for a date, I didn't know she was his daughter. 
A few months later, we were married. I was twenty-one. We have four 
children: Christina, who is studying business administration; Kathy, 
who is in Germany with M.R.A.; Duncan, who thinks he wants to 
act; and Valentina, the youngest, born in 1952, who is very musical. 
At the time of my marriage, I was making two hundred and fifty 
dollars a week, but I was terrified that I'd be dubbed deMille's son- 
in-law. I didn't want to be at the same studio with him. I wanted 
out. That led to a rupture between us. 

The year before I was married, I lived off and on with John 
Barrymore, who was sick at the time. He gave me the suit of armor 
he had worn in "Richard III." He told me that I should be a stage 
actor. I liked making movies, but the important thing for me was to 
get away from Paramount. I was a very intense young man. I felt I 
should try everything, do everything. So I broke my contract, went 
over to Warner Brothers, and got a small part in "City for Conquest/* 
with James Cagney and Arthur Kennedy. I began to go from studio 
to studio. I have always been in the process of being discovered. That's 
the way it was for rne then. I didn't mind playing Indians, but a lot 
of the other parts I was in made me unhappy. I was frequently the 
leading man's friend or a gangster. I didn't feel I was getting anywhere. 
I played in a pirate picture with Tyrone Power, in "The Ox-Bow In- 
cident," and in "Guadalcanal Diary/' Then I was in another Western. 
I felt useless. I felt, Christ, nothing is happening to me. How long can 



I go on, being at one studio after another and not making it at any 
studio? In 1946, the doors began to close. Then Sam Wanamaker asked 
me to play in a Broadway production of "The Gentleman from 
Athens," by Emmet Lavery. I grabbed it. In Boston, Elliot Norton, 
the leading critic there, called me the greatest actor he had ever 
seen. The play folded after seven performances in New York, and 
I was stuck. But I had tasted the theatre. What with Norton's 
review, I felt that all was not over. I had no money left. I was broke. 
Then I was offered the part of Stanley Kowalski in the road-company 
production of "A Streetcar Named Desire." I signed to play it in 
Chicago for six months. I lived in a four-flight walkup behind a 
stable. After the first six months, I felt I still hadn't made it on my 
own, and I stayed in the play for another six months, and then, 
because I felt I hadn't yet solved any of my problems, I stayed for 
another six months after that. We brought the production to 
the City Center, in New York, and got glowing notices. When I 
returned to Hollywood, my salary was way down. I played in "The 
Brave Bulls" for peanuts. Then I played in "Viva Zapata!" and felt, 
for the first time in movies, that I was doing the kind of acting I 
wanted. I still wasn't making much money, but I made a deal with 
myself; I said, "The hell with it. From now on, I'm not going to be 
just anybody." I won an Academy Award in 1952 as Best Supporting 
Actor for my performance in "Viva Zapata!" I began to feel that 
maybe it hadn't all been for nothing. I had an offer to make three 
pictures in Italy with Dino De Laurentiis and Carlo Ponti. "La 
Strada," in which I co-starred with the Italian actress Giulietta Masina 
in 1954, was brought into the company by me. They produced it 
reluctantly. I took an interest of twenty-five per cent in the picture 
instead of a big salary. If I had kept my interest in that movie, which 
made millions, I would be a rich man. However, my agent at the 
time saw the movie and thought it would be a flop, so I sold my 
interest in it for twelve thousand dollars. But things were starting to 
happen to me. I made a lot of money playing the part of Paul 
Gauguin in "Lust for Life," and I won another Academy Award for 
it, and I made several other pictures that did well. 

Then came another step in my life. Whether I was making 
a lot of money or not, I felt I was in a rut. When I was offered 
the part of Henry II in "Becket," with Laurence Olivier, on Broadway, 



I decided it was time to start a new phase of my life. Olivier is the 
greatest actor in the world, and I had a chance to play with him. 
I felt strongly that I had to come out from behind the tree. Playing 
gangsters was always very painful to me. I was using only fifteen per 
cent of myself in those parts. I was just renting my face out. Until 
"Becket," "La Strada" had been my greatest single accomplishment. 
But the theatre was a real challenge to me. The happiest period of 
my entire life was when I was rehearsing for that play. After it 
opened, I looked forward every night to going to work. I was very 
excited by the thought that I was going to learn something new each 
night. I've never felt so used in all my life. I have never been happy 
unless I was using the greater part of myself, and this play gave me the 
chance to do so. Oddly enough, it was my son Duncan, then fifteen, 
who got me over the last hump and into the play. I was afraid that 
more would be required of me than I would be able to deliver. Just 
before the opening, I developed laryngitis and wanted to give up, 
but Duncan told me, "You're going to have voice enough to do this 
play, because this play means more to you than anything else you've 
ever done/' Well, we opened and got rave notices. 

In the theatre, you play to the audience. In moviemaking, the 
director is your audience, and if he's pleased, you feel you've done 
your job. In the theatre, you've got a whole new crowd out there 
every night. You can become mesmerized by the feeling of acceptance 
you get from them. You have to keep yourself in check. Sometimes you 
have to step on a laugh, if you know it's a bad laugh you're getting. 
Only the amateur actor looks to make himself feel good. The pro 
takes his work seriously and has a constant awareness of the battle to 
tell the truth. A bad actor feels good after a performance, but the pro 
feels only the responsibility for finding the truth, no matter what. Some 
actors say "How much of me is like this part?" and others say "How 
much of me is not like this part?" I always try to see myself in the 
part. You create your own propulsion for going onstage each 
night. Olivier is a dedicated actor. His standards are extremely high. 
He is a model of discipline. But I have to work differently from 
the way he works. He finds the truth offstage and brings it with 
him; I try to find the truth onstage. I'm searching for it; he's already 
got it. The closest thing to acting is bullfighting or boxing. It's a 
matter of adjusting to the other man's blows. You're so busy adjusting 



it's difficult to think of anything else. Your images control your 
movements. It's a way of life the same all over the world. The 
actor is an artist. He comments on life constantly. He's a true creator. 
No one has more latitude to create than an actor. I can conjure up 
all the images I want, with perfect freedom, and what are the words 
until I say them? Before I go onstage, I experience the tremendous 
thrill of knowing that I will feel love, hate, anger, and will transmit 
them to the audience. My objective is now clear. What I want to do 
is to create, to say what I have to say. 



On the stage, actors have a rapport that is one of the 
most precious things in their life. Other actors lean 
toward you and look into your eyes and talk right into 
your heart. 

I was born on December 31, 1892, on a farm in Hillsdale, Michigan, a 
town with a population of five thousand, about eighty miles southwest 
of Detroit. I was the youngest of three children. My brother, Frank, Jr., 
who was seven years older than I was, died at the age of eighteen. My 
sister, Rolla, who died recently, was always interested in painting, 
sculpture, and the other arts. She married a bank teller, settled down 
in Hillsdale, and then encouraged me to get out into the world. My 
mother had taught school, and my father, who quit school after the 
eighth grade, was self-educated and worked as a farmer and post-office 
inspector. We had the usual Middle West hundred and forty-seven 
acres, with corn, cows, and chickens. My father was a very voluble man, 
always mixed up in politics, and, as a former strong Republican, he 
shocked everybody by becoming Teddy Roosevelt's campaign manager 
in Michigan for the Bull Moose Party in 1912. He was a natural 
pantomimist. My mother could look out of a window and see him 
standing way across a field talking to somebody, and from his gestures 
she'd know exactly what he was talking about. She was a gentle, 
sensitive person who couldn't ever stand a lull in conversation, she'd 



get so embarrassed. When I was fifteen, we moved to Saginaw for a 
couple of years, because my father had been transferred by the post 
office. My mother's sister, who taught school in Saginaw, lived with a 
family named Beach, whose son Louis, later a novelist, had written to 
New York for the catalogue of the American Academy of Dramatic 
Arts. I got to looking it over one day, and it set me thinking. I'd taken 
part in some home-talent theatricals. I'd always been musical; I had 
sung in our Episcopal Church choir as a soprano and could play al- 
most anything by ear on the piano. When we moved back to Hillsdale, 
I graduated from high school and then I took a job working for my 
brother-in-law as a cost clerk, for a salary of nine dollars a week. At 
night, I sang, for a dollar a night, in Hillsdale's nickelodeon, which 
happened to cost ten cents. Accompanied by a piano, I sang songs il- 
lustrated by colored slides. They were the most terrible things you 
ever saw the fellow and the girl sitting on a bench with the big yellow 
moon behind them. My son Jason and I have given many a wonderful 
party at which I played the ukulele and sang. Those songs always put 
Jason in stitches. Jason likes to have me sing the old tear-jerkers, like 
"The Road to Yesterday," and "Dear Little Boy of Mine," and 'Tan- 
sies Mean Thoughts and Thoughts Mean You." I'd sing twice a night, 
and in between I'd watch a movie, like "Ramona," with Mary Pick- 
ford, or "The Deerslayer/' with Wallace Reid. It was 1910 and 1911, 
and if you were making fifteen dollars a week, the way I was, you 
could save a lot of money. So I saved up, and, with some help 
from my sister and brother-in-law, I went to New York in the 
fall of 1911 to enroll in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. It 
was a pretty strange move for a boy from Hillsdale, Michigan. I lived 
in a rooming house on West Fifty-seventh Street, which cost fourteen 
dollars a week. My tuition was four hundred dollars for six months. It 
was the greatest experience of my life. I learned all the basic things of 
my craft, which is all a school can give you anyway. You can't teach 
anybody to act. That's why I insisted, when my son Jason said he 
wanted to be an actor, that he go to the Academy, too, and he did. My 
classmates included Edward G. Robinson, William Powell, and Joseph 
Schildkraut. The class ahead of ours had Guthrie McClintic. 

We were all pretty green, but you immediately got the feeling at the 
Academy that acting really is an art, that it's not a gay, flamboyant 
life but a way of life and an art. Basically, all the good actors know 



that. They have that as their belief. It's implanted in them. We had 
classes in speech; diction; life study, which meant going out and look- 
ing at people on the street and on the subway; dramatic reading; and 
so on. We acted in plays directed by the late Charles Jehlinger, the 
greatest of them all There's no doubt in my mind that acting is an 
art, because it is handling the most vital thing in the world human 
behavior. The writer sees something contained in his own mind and 
puts it down and God bless him for it. The musician hears something 
in his mind and puts it down. The painter sees something and puts it 
down. What all these artists do is engraved somewhere. But acting is 
a living thing. The actor creates a living human being not himself. 
What you create as an actor isn't yourself any more than what a painter 
creates. The painter is himself; he isn't Mona Lisa. The actor creates 
something and brings it onto the stage. Then he carries it five steps 
and it's gone, and he's himself again. 

Everything you do on the stage has to come from your mind. As soon 
as you start to do it, however, you begin to feel it. All of a sudden the 
lines leap out, and you find a new meaning. Even after you've been 
doing the same part for months, the lines jump out at you, and you're 
always finding new and additional meanings in them. When you start 
to build a character, you have to think it out: What is the author say- 
ing? How does your character relate to the others? Then you start going 
into very minute details, and suddenly there's a click. And you know 
why. You can feel it. You get it from yourself, from your own soul, 
and you get it from the other actors. It's never a routine. And always, 
inside yourself, is the suspicion that you might be wrong. Any time an 
actor thinks he's always right, he'd better examine himself. You have 
a sense of behavior that tells you what to do, and you work with that, 
together with a well-defined, well-thought-out point of view. At all 
times, you're interdependent with the people you're acting with. Al- 
ways, you have a deep respect for the audience. They came for enjoy- 
ment, and you've got to give it to them. Some audiences are so sharp, so 
wonderful, so inspiring, you work accordingly. They give you so much. 

All I knew when I started going to the Academy was that I had to do 
it. I had to act. My father, who just didn't want me to be an actor, 
said he could get me an appointment to go to Annapolis, or was willing 
to send me to the Michigan Agricultural College and give me his 
farm. It was tough to turn that down, but I had to. Then my father 



kept after me to become a lawyer. "That's acting, too, in a way/' he'd 
say. Actors weren't held in great repute in the Middle West, But I 
couldn't be turned away from what 1 felt 1 just had to do. After six 
months at the Academy, my money ran out, and I couldn't continue, 
so I got a job with a show on the road, understudying the lead in "The 
Country Boy," by Edgar Selwyn. I was pretty bad. I'd had no actual ex- 
perience. I still had ahead of me the things you sweat over for the 
first few years, including appearing before an audience. We were ten 
weeks out on the road, in Davenport, Iowa, when the leading man got 
sick. I had got to the theatre early that night as I always still do, 
because I like to adjust myself to the feeling of the part. When I was 
asked if I could go on that night, I said sure. When you're nineteen, 
as I was, you always say sure. So there I was, a leading man. 

The next year, I toured again in the play, as the lead, up to the 
Canadian Northwest. I was back in New York for one day, and was 
offered the lead in the road tour of a comedy called "Excuse Me," by 
Rupert Hughes. I played a young Army lieutenant, and it all took 
place in a Pullman car on the Union Pacific. But I knew I needed more 
experience, so I went into stock to get it. I was in a different play every 
week. I played old men and young men, rich men and poor. I special- 
ized in what might be called hands-in-the-pockets juveniles. I was mak- 
ing fifty dollars a week, and acting in places like Lowell, Massachusetts, 
and St. Louis, and Salt Lake City. I met my first wife, Maxine Glan- 
ville, in Salt Lake, where she was visiting her brother. She was from 
Portland, Oregon. We were married in 1914 and had two sons: Jason, 
and Glenn, who is an electronic engineer with Western Electric and a 
very solid citizen in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I have a daughter, 
Laurel, by my second wife, Agnes Lynch. Laurel works in a California 
bank, is very beautiful, and doesn't care about acting. I sometimes 
look at her with both wonder and regret. 

My first Broadway play, in 1917, was "Turn to the Right," a light 
comedy by Winchell Smith and John E. Hazzard, in which I played the 
heavy, a rich man's son interested in making trouble for the poor 
young hero. My salary had grown by then to seventy-five dollars a 
week. Then I played a lead, the part of the prosecutor, in Winchell 
Smith's and Frank Bacon's "LightninV In 1922, I played with Madge 
Kennedy in Frank Craven's "Spite Corner," and in Chicago I played 
Chico in Austin Strong's "Seventh Heaven," with Helen Menken. I 



loved that play. It represented the growth of man, from sewer to sun- 
light. When I came up those stairs to that little Helen Menken, with 
her carroty hair, I could feel what it meant to the audience. The 
play went to the West Coast from Chicago, and I went with it. I 
didn't return to the Broadway theatre until thirty-five years later, to 
play in Budd Schulberg's and Harvey Breit's "The Disenchanted," with 
Jason, late in 1958. 1 had four studios bidding for me when I first went 
out to Hollywood, and that, in those days, was enough to stop me from 
coming back to New York. My first year in movies was disastrous. I 
signed with Universal, because they offered me the most money seven 
hundred and fifty dollars a week. Making movies was a new experience 
for me. It was exciting and different. A lot of it meant working out- 
doors, on location, and getting up at seven o'clock in the morning 
and acting, a routine I wasn't used to. In those days, the hours weren't 
regulated at all. They used to work you around the clock on weekends, 
in what we called the "midnight follies." I made two movies, "Stella 
Maris," with Mary Philbin, and the first of a series of Cohen-and-Kelly 
movies, in which I played a Kelly, a young motorcycle officer. Each of 
my movies took six or seven weeks to make. After that, for the 
next thirty weeks, I was idle. In 1926, I was lent to Warner Brothers, 
which put me under contract. I was in "The Third Degree," with 
Dolores Costello, and in three of the early Rin Tin Tins. Then I 
vegetated again. But I couldn't leave, because I was under contract, 
and besides I needed money. By now I had a house in Beverly Hills, 
a maid, two cars, a wife, and two children. Then talking pictures came 
in. I had been filling in my time playing in local stage productions, and 
there I was, right in front of them, an actor who could talk, so they 
grabbed me. I started making one movie after another. I was in "The 
Gamblers," with H. B. Warner; "On Trial," with Lois Wilson; "The 
Isle of Lost Ships/' with Virginia Valli; D. W. Griffith's "Lincoln," 
with Walter Huston and Una Merkel, in which I played Lincoln's law 
partner; "Paris," with Jack Buchanan and Irene Bordoni; and the 
movie version of "Lightnin'," in which Joel McCrea played his first 
big part, the prosecutor, my old role, while I played the heavy. 

In 1959, after doing a play again on Broadway, I didn't like the idea 
of going back to work in Hollywood television movies of the conveyor- 
belt kind, but sometimes you have to go back to all those "Cimarron 
City"s in order to live. I'll never forget what Jason said to me when I 



I was going to be In that play with him. "This isn't any father-son 
deal," he said. "We're two actors together, and we won't give an inch/' 
Real life for an actor is in the living theatre. There is nothing that 
compares with the living theatre. It's like telling a story and having 
someone to listen to you. If there's no one in the room who cares what 
you say, if your only audience is the cold camera eye, if you bobble a 
line or slur a word and there's a mechanic to yell "Cut!" and you do it 
over again, you feel more and more that something important is being 
taken away from you. In the living theatre, you have the challenge 
right there with you this is it, hot or cold, for better or worse, this is 
it. The audience out there cares cares what you're doing, cares to hear 
what you're saying, cares to respond to what is happening on the 
stage. Why, in movies I've walked in at the start of a picture and not 
even known the people I was playing with. The important things were 
the lights, the dollies, the cold camera eye. The other actors had never 
seen me before, and I had never seen them. We'd have that little em- 
barrassed thing where we all said our names. Then we'd have a run- 
through. Then the camera would shoot it. In less than a day, you pick 
up your script, put on your makeup, get your wardrobe, and meet your 
fellow-actors, and then the machine gets to work on you. In the old 
days of quickies, I'd make a full-length feature picture in one week. 
How does that compare with being in the theatre? With four or five 
weeks of careful rehearsing, people looking into each other's eyes real, 
living people? You're in a state of well-being. You can't find it in any 
other way. Everything else is blotted out. It's plain joy. It keeps you 
alive. Jason's elder boy, Jason III, is twelve and likes acting, too, and 
has already been in grammar-school plays in New York. Jason and I 
talk about getting up a play for the three of us to be in together. 



Trying to see other people from the point of view of 
the character you play forces you to have a little per- 
ception about the other people, which, ultimately, is 
all that life is. 

I was born on February 26, 1922, in Barnt Green, Worcestershire, Eng- 
land, the eldest of three children. In Birmingham, which was nearby, 
my father was then in the business of selling cotton to retailers, but in 
his late fifties he got into steel, because the cotton shortage during 
the Second World War made it necessary for him to set to and find an- 
other means of making a living. In my childhood, when he was in cotton, 
I used to go to his office and come home with a collection of little 
samples of cloth. Today, my brother is in the steel business, and 
lives in India. My sister is married to a businessman in England. I grew 
up in a middle-class suburban neighborhood. I was a bored child. I 
went to a school connected with the Church of England College in 
Birmingham. In the holidays, I was taken to Church of England 
Children's Special Service Mission meetings at the seaside, and by 



the time I was eight I had begun to sing at them. They were held on 
the beach at Borth, in Wales, where my family rented a cottage each 
summer. Theology students would come there for their holidays. They 
were undergraduates, in their early twenties, but to me they seemed like 
elderly gentlemen. We children would build a pulpit out of sand and 
decorate it with shells and flowers. It was a rather jolly time. It was all 
for a child's religious education reading the Bible and singing hymns. 
I sang all the solo parts. It didn't occur to me that anyone else could 
do it. I must have read the whole of the Bible by the time I was twelve. 
From around that time, I never expected to do anything but go on the 
stage. Before that, I had talked about becoming a lawyer. But I 
couldn't imagine growing into the dull life of the Birmingham sub- 
urbs. In 1938, when I was sixteen, I left school at the end of the sum- 
mer term and joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. That Septem- 
ber, I was given my first part Dorothy, the Cockney maid, in "Laugh 
With Me/' by Adelaide Phillpotts. It was quite a good part, and I was 
terribly frightened. I kept giggling nervously and acting rowdy during 
rehearsals, and then I cried all through the first three weeks of the 
play. In the part, I was supposed to laugh all the time, which is quite 
a difficult thing to do, especially if you're terrified, but I managed to 
get out a series of strangled wheezes. Anyway, I stuck it, and began to 
learn something about the discipline of the theatre. I lived at home, 
in our suburb. My family didn't take my ambitions very seriously. 
When I first started, the idea of getting up and saying two lines in front 
of an audience, or even in front of the other actors, nearly killed me. 
It seemed entirely different from giving recitations. I'd try my lines out 
at home, saying them in front of my mother, and that eased me into 
it a bit. My mother became quite a devotee of the theatre. She used 
to make my costumes and listen to me for hours at a time without ever 
getting tired. I did all sorts of bits and pieces with the company, and 
then, when I was nineteen, I played my first lead, the role of Lady 
Babbie in "The Little Minister" the first time I really had responsi- 
bility for a play. Acting was something I enjoyed. All this time, I was 
living in a blissful vacuum. I didn't think about anything but acting. 
I didn't know about anything else. I wasn't interested in anybody or 
anything outside of the theatre. I found everything in losing what I 
suppose I might call my own identity and becoming what I was in- 
tended to become in the plays. That kind of bliss decreases with ex- 



perience and, indeed, it must, as you become better equipped and 
grow more aware of the hazards. In those days, I wasn't aware of 
audiences only of what / was doing. Today, if an audience is quiet 
I know whether it's because everybody is asleep or is interested. You 
can feel it, mostly. A quiet audience is either dead quiet, which means 
that it's listening, or restless quiet, which means that it's not. To 
act in the way one did as a child, disregarding the audience, would be 
complete self-indulgence. One is there to satisfy, in whatever way one 
can, the people who have paid for their tickets. But as a young actress 
I was far more self-absorbed, as most young actors and actresses are, 
than I think I am today. I had far less acute critical faculties. 

I spent six years with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. They 
were good years, when almost everything I did was enjoyable. I had 
offers after a while to go to London and appear in plays, but some un- 
canny instinct told me not to accept them. It was probably the only 
clever decision I've ever made in my life. I didn't have an agent in 
those days. I wasn't interested in making more money. I lived at home, 
for one thing, and, for another, my final salary was the top one, nine 
pounds a week, which to me was untold wealth. Those years in reper- 
tory were the only time I have ever fully lived for the theatre, as actors 
are thought to do. When the war came along, I was allowed to stay in 
the theatre, instead of being called up, as other women were. In my 
sixth year at Birmingham, another instinct told me that it was time 
to move on, before the audiences got tired of me. That is a thing 
that is especially apt to happen in provincial repertory. It's something 
like playing tennis. You're never going to improve if you play with the 
same partner all the time. 

Some friends advised me to go to London and see a man named 
John Burrell, the chairman of the newly formed board of directors of 
the Old Vic Theatre Company. I didn't really know anything much 
about the Old Vic then. I did an audition for him, and he asked me if I 
would book three seats at the Birmingham Rep for the next matinee. 
The two other seats, it turned out, were for Laurence Olivier and Ralph 
Richardson. It was 1944, all but the end of the war. Both Larry and 
Ralph had been in the Fleet Air Arm, and they had decided to re-form 
the Old Vic as a permanent company in London, using as many veter- 
ans as possible. In May, 1941, the Old Vic's theatre, on Waterloo 
Road, had been hit by a Nazi bomb. During the war, the Old Vic 



toured in England. What I didn't know at the time was that that sea- 
son had been designed for Larry and Ralph. In the first season, Ralph 
played the title roles in "Uncle Vanya" and "Peer Gynt/' and Larry 
played Saranoff in "Arms and the Man" and the Duke of Gloucester 
in "Richard III." When one was playing a leading part, the other took 
a small one, just to appear in the same play; for instance, when 
Ralph played Peer Gynt, Larry took the part of the Moulder of But- 
tons. Another thing I didn't know at the time was that Burrell and 
Larry and Ralph wanted to know how I would fit in with the rest of 
the company. The other actress they were interested in and got that 
year was Joyce Redman. At the Birmingham matinee, I was playing 
the part of the daughter-prostitute in Pirandello's "Six Characters in 
Search of an Author/' There was no sound from the audience during 
the performance, no sound at all from in front. I thought, My God, 
it's terrible, I'm terrible. I found out later that the Birmingham 
audience had recognized Larry and Ralph, because both had played 
there. It was an awfully small theatre, with a capacity of four hundred. 
The audience was absolutely transfixed by the sight of Larry and 
Ralph, and wasn't even watching me. Larry and Ralph came round 
later with Burrell. We had tea, and they asked me to join them at the 
Old Vic. I said I had one more play to do in Birmingham, and they 
said they'd arrange to work around it. I was reasonably frightened at 
their invitation. 

I stayed at the Old Vic from June, 1944, to April, 1947, leaving to 
appear in James Bridie's "A Sleeping Clergyman," with Robert Donat, 
in June, 1947, in London. They were three extraordinary years. 
Sybil Thorndike was in the company the first season, and I acted with 
her in "Arms and the Man/* "Peer Gynt/' and "Richard III." She has 
always been for me one of the most wonderful people in the theatre. 
She's absolutely unique. She's completely tireless never too tired to 
help other people, to talk with you when you want to talk. She's really 
saintly. I used to sit in her dressing room between shows. She'd give 
me some tea, and I always felt I could tell her anything. She's always 
been most generous, particularly with younger actors. The theatre in 
so many ways is slightly megalomaniacal the antithesis of Sybil. 

My first appearance with the company was as Raina Petkoff in "Arms 
and the Man," in which we opened in Manchester, and in which I 
acted with both Larry and Ralph. Then we opened in London, and I 



made my debut there in "Peer Gynt." I played the Woman in Green, 
the evil influence on Peer Gynt. It was a big, spectacular production, 
directed by Tyrone Guthrie, with a lot of stylized dancing, and so on 
a wonderful production, really. Acting with Larry and Ralph was 
like starting all over. It made everything I'd done before seem like 
reading telephone books. They were very kind to me. They didn't 
grumble. I felt I was very unskilled. I was very shy pathologically 
shy, actually. I'd never worked with London actors before, and I was 
painfully unsophisticated. London was a world I was quite unused to. 
I appeared in only one new play, "An Inspector Calls/' in addition to 
classics like "Uncle Vanya." I loved, and still love, playing Chekhov. 
It suits me. It suits the way I behave on the stage. Chekhov is tragi- 
comic in a most subtle way and on a very civilized level. It's what ap- 
peals to me more than anything else that combination of being very 
moving and being very funny. When I was twenty-two, I played Yelena 
in "Uncle Vanya," and, at twenty-eight, Masha, the unhappily married 
sister, in "The Three Sisters." The part of Masha was my favorite of 

In looking back at the roles I've played, some of them seem to me 
to have been insipid. All I knew at the time, though, was that I was act- 
ing away for dear life. As soon as the role was over, I forgot it. Until 
I was twenty-five, I did nothing but work. Then I got married, to Max 
Reinhardt, a book publisher. I still went on acting. I still went on 
working. I still had no friends outside the theatre. I went home with 
the script, and that was all. When I was thirty, I looked back and felt 
that I had had nothing at all. I was divorced six years after my mar- 
riage. Around that time, I began to feel bored with the theatre. In 
some ways, it was like a kind of strait jacket. I felt that especially when 
I was playing Shaw. I would get into a certain role as it had been writ- 
ten by Shaw written in a special way, so that there was only one 
way of acting the part. That one way was right and any other way 
was wrong. Roles like that don't give you much elasticity. Shaw writes 
musically, as though for an orchestra. As an actor, you're simply one 
musician in the orchestra, and, as such, you can't go off suddenly on 
your own. You must play it the way it's orchestrated. It was something, 
however, to discover that there was a correct way and an incorrect 
way of playing a part in the light of what the author had intended. 
And that, I must say, helped me become more workmanlike. I learned 



how to build a role into a solid structure based on the written words 
in the play. But I missed having room to explore the character. 

Acting is delicious in anticipation but more delicious in retrospect. 
I don't always know if audiences like me. I worry about boring them. 
I enjoy acting, but the special feeling of enjoyment that comes when 
you get caught up in a part is rare. You're lucky if it happens once a 
month. The moments come suddenly. Suddenly you're able to swim 
through a scene. It happened to me occasionally when I was playing 
in "Separate Tables/* Three times, in fact: the last night of the run in 
London, in 1956; at the Actors' Fund benefit in New York; and my last 
night in New York. It may be that I knew it was the last time or the 
only time, that I wouldn't have another chance, and so I knew that 
whatever I wanted to do, I'd better do it quick. I can enjoy doing a 
part without being terribly glad about it. I don't clap hands, and all 
that. I find it very exciting working with an American cast. American 
acting has a*sort of guttiness, a complete giving up to the acting that 
the young actors do here, and this is an enormously vital thing. Ameri- 
can actors, on the whole, are much more perceptive about adhering to 
the truth. They make more effort to seek out the truth than English 
actors seem to do. English actors have more adroitness. Technically, 
they're better equipped. But American actors not stars, especially, 
but the people in little parts, coming on with a tea tray and that 
sort of thing never fake it up. It's a matter of trying to find the truth. 
Without this effort the theatre can become anemic. There could be a 
lot more of that sort of thing in England. 

When I'm in a play, I spend in-between times waiting to get to the 
theatre. I always get to the theatre an hour and a half earlier than is 
required. One has to be absolutely at one's best, and to do that one 
has to turn everything into preparation for it. I can't eat before a 
show. I have a light lunch, and after the show I finally have a warm 
meal. One thing I can always take, physically, is bad weather. When 
you're brought up in England, it's easy to take heat or cold or fog or 
rain. I don't go to the theatre very much as part of the audience. It 
makes me ill I have claustrophobia to be in a crowd of people. And 
I find myself identifying with the actors on the stage in a way that is 
exhausting. It's absolute purgatory for me to go to an opening night. 
When I was younger, I worked harder and liked it better. I lived in- 
side the theatre. Now I work differently and more effectively. When 



you're starting, your energy is different. Not that I would want to be 
eighteen again. It's not a very enviable age, energy or not. The way you 
feel has tremendous bearing on what emerges in a part. Health is 
very important. It's awfully hard to inject anything into a part if 
you feel miserable as hell. It's the churning up in acting that makes It 
tiring. Only a phenomenally strong man can play Macbeth. He's got 
to be extraordinarily fit. The role of Macbeth is demanding in every 
sense; it never lets up. 

Once I accept a part, I feel relieved for the moment that the first 
important decision has been made. After that, I always think, I've got 
it now; I wish it were over with. One thing I hate is having to decide 
whether to do a part, although, actually, when I first read a script, I 
know immediately whether I want to do it. One smells it immediately. 
One thing that puts me off in reading a play is getting too strong an 
impression of the author feeling that the author is intruding upon 
the play. If I find myself thinking that I know what sort of chap the 
author is, I know it's a bad play. In all bad plays, you see what 
sort of chap the author is; that is, you have to think about it. 
Finding the right part doesn't really mean that the part is right for 
you; it's more that you are right for it. Some plays need more home- 
work than others. You do a lot of homework on all of them, but you 
pretend that you don't. More homework is required when the language 
is complex, difficult, with lots of colors. When you start to work on a 
part, it's easier if you know how you're going to emerge. But it's 
often more exciting if you don't know. When I start to work on a part, 
I read it over and over, and one little bit after another falls into 
place. Then I begin to see a moment truthfully. I work up to that mo- 
ment, and then I work away from it. Such moments are why you 
want to play the part. When I was asked to do "Separate Tables," in 
which I played two roles, I had exactly nine days in which to study 
the characters, and it ordinarily takes that long just to learn the lines 
and the moves. I was too tired to think about what I was doing. I just 
did it. I've been in more plays than I can count in repertory and on 
English and American stages over a period of almost twenty-five years. 
I've been forced to examine closely, and appreciate, every character 
I've played. 

I've found that it's fatal to regard acting as necessarily fun. It's 
marvellously exciting, but one ought not to regard it as something 



necessarily pleasurable. A lot of acting takes the form of self-indul- 
gence. I remember one time when I was playing Ellie Dunn in "Heart- 
break House" in Birmingham, the tears were streaming down, and 
I was tearing the place apart. Once you get taken hold of, it's easy 
to let go and go on that way, but it's not acting. The director stopped 
me. He caught me between scenes and said to me, "You're here not 
to enjoy yourself but to give pleasure to the audience." One must know 
that before taking a part. I've made terrible mistakes in accepting 
some roles and turning down others, but some good is bound to come 
of doing, rather than not doing, any role. The most successful actors 
are actors who simply keep acting. My theory is either do it and 
don't talk about it or don't do it and don't talk about that, either. 
Finding the right play is of the first importance. Good judgment is 
needed in selecting roles. The judgment can be someone else's, but I 
have always had to use my own. It requires a dogged perseverance to 

I admire Edith Evans for her taste, her discrimination, her selectivity, 
her restraint. I admire Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson and 
John Gielgud for the same qualities. I've been lucky in having had the 
opportunity to act in plays with all of them. Laurette Taylor was 
great. There was no chichi about her. She was a human being who 
imitated no one. I somewhat resist being confined to what the author 
says I must be, but I suppose authors have to reduce feelings to some- 
thing that is acceptable to mass audiences. The most important thing 
in acting is truthfulness to life and to the author and to the style of 
the play. 



The delineation of character may have been done 
originally by the author, but you go out there onstage 
and frost it with yourself. 

I was born on April 4, 1932, in New York City. When I was five, my 
father, the actor Osgood Perkins, died of a heart attack, at the age 
of forty-five. After living in New York for a while, my mother and I 
moved to Boston, where she worked as head of the Stage Door Canteen. 
She's interested in the theatre, because of my father, but she's not an 
actress. We lived in Brookline. I attended various schools in the 
region Brooks School, North Andover, for a couple of years, then 
the Browne and Nichols School, in Cambridge. From the age of five, 
I wanted to act, but I was ten before I had the feeling I had to do 
something about it, and it wasn't until I was fifteen that I felt I was 
ready to start. Then I played in "Junior Miss," by Jerome Chodorov 
and Joseph Fields, at the Brattleboro Summer Theatre, in Vermont. 
I became single-minded about acting in high school, where I neverthe- 
less went in for athletics and played tennis, because I hated to be in- 
doors. My mother was keen on my finishing my education before I got 
too deeply involved with acting. She wanted me to be educated, so that 
if it turned out I didn't have ability for the stage I could do something 
else. She felt there was no sense in rushing me. When I was eighteen, 



I went to Rollins College, in Florida, where I majored in history and 
English literature. I joined a fraternity, and talked girls and sports 
cars and records. I was one of the few guys in the fraternity who cared 
about the theatre. The college had a pretty high-powered Drama 
Department and two theatres. I was happy at Rollins. I enjoyed the 
Drama Department. The two teachers in charge of it, Wilbur Dorsett 
and Howard Bailey, got me to learn the fundamentals of playing on 
the stage walking, facing front, developing facets of a character. I 
got a chance to play parts in "Harvey/' "The Warrior's Husband/' 
"The Importance of Being Earnest," "The Madwoman of Chaillot," 
and many other productions. I was still too inexperienced to get to 
play a leading man, so I played parts like the thirty-five-year-old 
reporter in "Goodbye, My Fancy/' There was something wonderful 
to me about acting on the stage. Instead of really acting, however, I 
was performing in an outgoing, senseless rush at the audience, using 
my appeal, taking advantage of easy situations, being charming and 
lush. Acting, I was to learn later on, is more circuitous. It takes 
thought, consideration, real construction. 

After I had been at Rollins for three years, I hitchhiked to 
California and made a screen test for a movie called "The Actress." 
The following December, I worked in the picture, in the role of Jean 
Simmons' suitor, and since I was on Christmas vacation, I missed only 
one week of school. I returned to Rollins for one term. Then I came 
to New York and got myself transferred to Columbia University, 
because I thought that when the picture was released I'd get acting 
jobs in television on the side while finishing college. I played in some 
television dramas, put on by the "Kraft Television Theatre/' "Studio 
One/' and others usually those family plays, in which I was the boy 
with hair falling down over his forehead. Before graduating, I audi- 
tioned for Elia Kazan for the part James Dean got in the film "East 
of Eden." Although I didn't get that part, Kazan hired me to play in 
"Tea and Sympathy," with Joan Fontaine, on Broadway, when John 
Kerr left the play. I played the part of the young man for thirteen 
months. Then William Wyler chose me to play one of Gary Cooper's 
sons in the movie "Friendly Persuasion/' for which I was nominated 
for an Academy Award. After that, I made more movies, including 
"Fear Strikes Out," with Karl Maiden; "Desire Under the Elms," with 
Sophia Loren; "The Matchmaker," with Shirley Booth; "Green Man- 



sions," with Audrey Hepburn; "On the Beach," with Gregory Peck 
and Ava Gardner; and "Psycho," with Janet Leigh. I found Hollywood 
terribly hard on the nerves. In movies, you feel thwarted. No rehearsals, 
just meeting your fellow-actors, and then you're right in production. 
It was in "Friendly Persuasion," however, that I first realized what 
acting could be. When I watched Phyllis Love and Mark Richman 
work, I saw the difference for the first time. When I worked in "The 
Actress," I didn't learn. In all the time I played in "Tea and Sym- 
pathy," I didn't learn. But I saw Phyllis Love on the set of "Friendly 
Persuasion" making copious notes and then I heard her asking the 
director all kinds of questions, like "What time of day is it supposed 
to be?" So I started to wonder about what I was really doing, and I'd 
say, "What time of day is it supposed to be?" Then the lights began 
to go on, and I was learning about Method acting. I began to learn to 
rely less on intuition and to study the architecture of a role. It's easy, 
as a young actor, to depend on your intuition, which often leads to an 
inaccurate motivation for the character you're portraying. I began to 
get a reputation for being a director-botherer. After "Friendly Per- 
suasion," I made "The Lonely Man," and by that time I really 
understood the Method. I worked with a girl named Elaine Aiken, 
who was an absolute slave to the Method. The movie was a Western 
with Jack Palance as a retiring gunfighter and together Elaine Aiken 
and I finished off Henry Levin, the director, with our questions. 
Usually, I'm a great believer in what a director tells me. I'm very 

Of the various kinds of acting, I prefer the stage. I played the part 
of Eugene Gant in "Look Homeward, Angel," by Ketti Frings, and 
the part of Gideon, the young man, in the Frank Loesser musical 
"Greenwillow." After Hollywood, being on the stage felt great. You 
can't separate the actor from the circumstances in which he works. 
When you act in a picture, the director can threaten and bully you 
or else let you do it your own way and then just cut it out of the 
picture and not show it at all. The only way to keep control over what 
you do is to act on the stage. Once you walk out there, nobody can 
shout at you or pull strings and get you to jump. Once you're out 
there acting, you're doing it on your own. Life in Hollywood is 
corrosive for the actor. The minute you're through making a picture, 
you're an actor out of a job. It's over. If you're a big star, theoretically 
you have no worries, but even if you're the kingpin, all you can do is 



play croquet or see that your kids don't fall in the pool. For the half- 
way stars in Hollywood, life is really tense. I just can't fit into the Hol- 
lywood march. I've never been ahle to swing there. All that talk about 
values and yappety-yap. Getting up at six, driving out in fog and 
smog to the studio. All those people who nibble at you like hungry 
piranhas. The sluggishness of the studios. Everything overcome by a 
kind of sleeping sickness. Even in the acting, you think you've done 
something but it turns out to be not what you expected. I don't like 
to go into a movie unless I can work with the very best director, of 
my own choice. Being good in movies is like doing heart surgery. It's 
great for some people. The fine thing about Broadway is that if you're 
in a hit you can play in it for a year. Even television is better for an 
actor than Hollywood movies, especially if you're making a nice, 
comfortable series. At least, that way you're steadily employed. How- 
ever, for myself, I want something more than steady employment from 
acting. An important man in one of the big movie studios in Holly- 
wood once said to me, "You're going to make good pictures and bad 
pictures, and if something doesn't come off, we'll just look at each 
other and say, 'It's only movies/ " I was shocked. Of course, some 
movie producers don't take that attitude at all. 

I'm very happy as an actor. Every night I perform on the stage is 
a creative experience for me. When I'm in a play, I look forward all 
day long to appearing in the play at night. Even if I have a lot on 
my mind or don't feel well when I get to the theatre, as soon as I 
hear my cue I feel all right again. I feel absolutely at ease in a fiction 
of some kind. I might come unglued if I couldn't act. Acting is built 
in, dependable, acceptable. When I first became a little well known 
and had a day when I was feeling down, I'd actually say to myself, 
"Well, I think I'll go out for a walk and be recognized." There's even 
something to that. Onstage, you feel you can make the audience listen 
to you and watch you. When I played in "Greenwillow," we'd get 
terrible houses only a handful of people on some nights. I always 
liked that. The audience would be feeling terrible; they'd be wishing 
they hadn't come, because nobody else came. But I always felt I 
could bring them out of it. I always felt that if there were five or ten 
people out there, I could give each one my individual attention. The 
real purpose of this particular medium, after all, is to stir people, to 
touch them. You're on a raised platform taking up a small area in 
front of which is a larger area with a lot of seats and people in them. 



Before that, you're sitting in a cubicle putting stuff on your face to 
make it look darker. Then you get on that raised platform with some 
other people and you try to reveal situations and emotions, you try 
to inform the audience and to enlighten it. When you walk out there, 
you think of nothing but the application of yourself to your part. You 
can't deny your own feelings; you must believe in the emotions you 
express, but you have to keep some detachment. If another actor is 
near you, you can't walk right into him. You submerge your own 
personality, but you can't ever lose yourself entirely in the part. If 
you're playing the part of someone in love, for example, you can't 
make your voice a whisper, as you might do in real life. You can't do 
that onstage, or your response is lost. Every night when I go out 
onstage, I remind myself to keep my responses fluid, to keep them 
really moving. Whatever is said to me, I can really respond. I never 
walk out feeling rigid. Although I never push my responses, I do try 
to coax them. I learned that from Kim Stanley, who once said some- 
where, when she was in "Picnic," that acting is like playing the piano 
or the guitar; no matter how good you are, you're never as good as 
you can be you never realize the full potentialities of your instru- 
ment, which is yourself. I believe in Method acting, but I've always 
been afraid to audition for the Actors' Studio. They might say no. 
When I see my mother, we don't talk very much about acting, 
although she's given me some very sound advice on how to get my 
own way and still not be difficult. Before I went into one of my 
leading roles on the stage, she told me, "If you're the star of a 
show, you've got to be just right. That's your responsibility." Nothing 
is as raw as a play rehearsing. It's also at its most exalted level then. 
That's when it's most involved, and you can't clutter up your life with 
outside problems. In "Look Homeward, Angel," I was almost fired in 
the beginning because I seemed inattentive. I have an undisciplined 
appearance. I can't stand still too long; I want to get on with it. On 
reading a script for the first time, I see myself in a part in two ways: 
first, the qualities in the part I can dramatize through the application 
of my own personality, and, second, how I can enhance the part with 
aspects of my own personality. Once I've done a part right, I just 
assume 111 do it again. One of my stage directors taught me that the 
best acting is spare acting, the sparest, with the smallest gesture, the 
greatest economy. I've learned how to mete it out. 



Acting creates the illusion of life, because what you 
give is out of yourself, but if you give everything in 
yourself to the acting, you miss your own life. 

I was born, to French parents, on March 25, 1921, in Wiesbaden, Ger- 
many, during the French occupation after the First World War. My 
father, Andre Kaminker, who recently died, was Jewish; my mother, 
whose maiden name was Signoret, is Catholic. My father was a charm- 
ing, brilliant man, a little superficial, and not meant to be head of a 
family. I grew up with two younger brothers Alain, who became a 
film director and was drowned while making a film about fishermen, and 
Jean-Pierre, who is twenty-eight and is a professor of Latin, French, 
and Greek in a lycee near Paris. When I was two, my father, who 
knew five languages and was a professional translator, moved us to 
France, to Neuilly-sur-Seine, a fine middle-class suburb of Paris, where 
we tried to be middle-class and failed. I always wanted my family to be 
average, to be like other families. Our family had the appearance of 
being average, but we were not. After my mother, an educated woman, 
took me to the Comedie Fran^aise to see the classics, I never wanted to 



be anything but an actress. When I was fifteen, I started to read a lot, 
and the next year I went to England for three months as a paying guest 
on an English poultry farm. I arrived ahead of another French girl 
guest, and by the time she arrived, I had a little bit of English, so I 
translated for her, and thus began to learn a lot of English. 1 have never 
lost my English. Recently, when I made a French movie called "Les 
Mauvais Coups," I was able to do my own English dubbing for a ver- 
sion to be shown over here. I like to do that, but since a lot of the 
subtlety is lost in any dubbing, I also like to feel that people here will 
have the opportunity to see the original French version; in such cases, 
both should be available. At eighteen, I took my last examination at 
the lycee three days after the German occupation of France began. It 
was a black period for the family. My father, who was already in his fif- 
ties, nevertheless went to England, on June 18, 1940, to join de Gaulle 
as an officer, and did a great deal of interpreting, writing, and broad- 
casting for the Free French. As the eldest, I felt I was head of the fam- 
ily. I felt responsible for my mother and my small brothers. In some 
ways, it was the best thing that has happened to me in my whole life, 
because it led me to get into an entirely different social group. I learned 
typewriting and took a job typing for the Nouveau Temps a pro-Ger- 
man newspaper. It was disgusting. I might have become a collaboration- 
ist myself, because at that time I had no conscience about anything; I 
must say I was quite tough. But through my job I met a new group of 
people, the people of the Saint-Germain-des-Pres of wartime. There 
were only three cafes to go to and no big lights in the district, and it 
was wonderful. I met actors who were not famous but who were in- 
teresting and exciting people. Some of them worked as extras in films, 
I discovered people who were success-haters. And with them I found a 
little bit of myself. They showed me good books, and they introduced 
me to the avant-garde and to new feelings about life. In those days, 
there were two kinds of people in Occupied France those with the 
wallets, in which they kept all the tickets for bread and meat for them- 
selves, and the others, who never had wallets and who never had tickets, 
because they gave them away to other people. I discovered the differ- 
ence between these two types of people. 

When I was twenty, although I was tough, I was also very shy. Then 
I became an extra in films, and something broke inside my shyness. My 
new friends taught me to regard acting as an honest job. They told me 


it was all right to want to act, all right to leave the typing job. Before 
that, I had never said anything to anybody about acting. It was stirring 
in me, but it was a secret. I thought that everybody had a need to be 
an actor but that it was a dream you shouldn't talk about. I found out 
that it wasn't such a ridiculous thing, that you could really do it as 
well as dream it. These people who were my friends taught me such a 
lot about life and about acting. Now they are getting older, and they 
are on the bitter side. They talk of nothing but Brecht and lonesco, 
and they despise anything that is light. But in the early days they 
were very helpful to me in my life and in my career. For a young actor 
to be an extra is very frustrating but very good for him. You learn to 
be on time for appointments. You are treated anonymously, and it is 
good for your health to be lost in the crowd. Also, you see a lot of 
actors acting. The first film I worked in as an extra was "Le Prince 
Charmant," in 1941. I was paid a hundred and seventy-five francs or 
about four dollars a day, for a week's work. On my first day, I was 
frightened and disappointed. The scene was an elegant bar, but I had 
nothing elegant to wear, and because it was wartime there was no 
makeup. The producers wanted the women extras to wear spring furs. 
As a result, the extras who had spring furs stood near the camera, and 
I, since I had no furs, was put in the background. In 1942, I was in the 
chorus of a bad stage version of "Oedipus," called "Dieu Est Inno- 
cent/' for fifteen francs a day and I started to learn about acting. 
After two months, however, I was fired, because I was giggling too 
much onstage. I learned that one must have the discipline not to giggle 
onstage, and I went back to extra jobs in movies. The quality of movies 
was very low in those war days. I studied acting with a magnificent 
woman named Solange Sicard. With her I learned quite a lot, and one 
most important thing never, in French, to put stress on a verb. Only 
phonies do that. 

My first real movie part was as a prostitute in "Les Demons de 
FAube," made in 1945. I was married to a director, Yves Allegret, and 
was pregnant when I made the movie. When my baby, Catherine, was 
twenty-one days old, I was hired by Jacques Feyder to play with his 
wife, Fran^oise Rosay, in his movie "Macadam." I will never be as 
happy as I was the night I was chosen for the part, when they called 
me and told me. Again I played a prostitute. Fran^oise Rosay is very 
handsome, very elegant, and very wonderful, and I was very much 



afraid of her. She took me aside and gave me some good advice: You 
can't act unless you know your lines upside down. I call her "Madame" 
to this day. She says "tu" to me. I worship her. Feyder taught me how 
to act with natural gestures and not fiddle with objects for no reason. 
He taught me how to be relaxed. The picture came off superbly for 
me. The other actors were already known. It is always the newcomer 
who steals the picture, and I was new, so I got all the attention. I was 
on top of the world. I was immediately offered a part in an English 
picture, "Against the Wind." It took four months, and I was away for 
four months from my baby. When I came back, she didn't recognize 
me. It was a horrible moment for me. After I had been married for 
seven years, I met Yves Montand. It was 1949. I was on holiday in 
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, in the mountains between Cannes and Nice. He 
was playing on tour there. As soon as I met him, I fell in love with him. 
I left my husband and my home, which was bad. I left my child, which 
was worse. People didn't like it, but I had to do it. I started to live 
with a man who is a performer, which was a complete change in my life. 
Before I married Yves Montand, I had never made a picture without 
signing up to do another, but Yves wouldn't be happy if I worked all 
the time, so I decided that I would do only what I liked very much, 
and I have since made very few films. My daughter Catherine lives 
with us now. I remember that when my mother called for me at 
school, she would be dressed to look like a maid, because we did not 
have a maid. When I've called for Catherine at school, I've tried to 
look like any other mother. 

I like my life today. I feel I must be careful and not do too much 
acting, because there is always the danger that I might forget my own 
life. If you take that path, you find yourself with nothing. Yves is a 
wonderful performer. I admire him very much. We are almost always 
together. If you give everything to acting, you are embroiled in a con- 
stant fight for a bigger part, a better part. There is no time to live. 
You get old and you still want to be young. That is not life. A woman 
is a fool if she does not learn this. I was lucky, also, to learn before 
I was thirty that you cannot show emotion as an actress if you have 
never experienced it. It is like showing the grand passion for a man. 
You cannot do it if you do not feel it. There are some actresses who 
are always taking and taking in life and never giving, and they live 
entirely in their acting. That may be the only kind of satisfaction they 



are seeking, but to me they look lonely and frantic. When I am making 
a picture, I never feel relaxed. When Catherine is ill, it always seems 
more important when I am not working. It frightens me that I don't 
feel as anxious about these things when I am working. Any woman 
who is an actress should be able to feel frightened by this. If she 
doesn't, she should change by the time she is thirty; otherwise it is too 
late. I was happy about the prizes that came to me for my acting in 
"Room at the Top/' and it was one of my happiest days when I was 
given the Academy Award for it. I had decided very carefully to make 
that movie, just as I had decided only after great thought to make 
"Casque d'Or" and "Diabolique." What was for Yves and me the great- 
est enjoyment was when we played together in Paris, in Arthur Mill- 
er's "The Crucible," on the stage, for one year. For Paris, a run of 
one year is enormous. People came to the theatre to see the play who 
had never before gone to the theatre. Yves drew them there. In France, 
a popular singer is a big hero, as a football star is in Brazil or a bi- 
cycle champion in Italy. We loved the audience we got. We never grew 
tired of the play for one second. We lived in an apartment across the 
street from the theatre we played in. Sometimes, at seven o'clock, we 
would feel, Oh, not tonight again, but once we got into the theatre 
we were happy. I prefer acting on the stage to acting in films, where 
you do the part in little bits from day to day. You can't leave the part 
while you are making a movie; if you don't hang on to the character 
completely, you can lose it. But on the stage you start to be the charac- 
ter at nine o'clock, and as soon as the curtain comes down, it is finished* 
It is out of you. You can go back to your life. 



Next to acting myself, watching other actors gives me 
my greatest joy. 

I was bom on June 8, 1918, in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts. My 
full name is Robert Preston Meservey. I was lucky in having young 
parents, Frank and Ruth Rea Meservey, who married before they 
were twenty-one. My father now works in the office of a coat- 
lining business in Los Angeles. I have one brother, Frank, Jr., 
twenty-two months younger than I am, who lives in Los Angeles, 
is married, has two children, and works for a beer distributor. When I 
was two years old, my parents moved from Massachusetts to California, 
and went to live in my maternal grandparents' house, in Los Angeles. 
My grandmother was a strongly matriarchal type, and she had 
decided to move the whole family out to California for the sake of 
my grandfather's health; he was believed to have tuberculosis. My 
father was working as a billing clerk for American Express, and it 
didn't matter to him where he worked. To him, a job was a job. My 
grandmother bought a large old white frame house in Lincoln Heights, 
the poorest section of East Los Angeles. She thought a sanatorium was 
going to be built there, because the region was higher than the rest 



of the city and was considered good for people with respiratory ail- 
ments. Eleven people my grandparents, my parents, my brother and 
I, and my mother's two brothers and three sisters moved into this 
house. The neighborhood was predominantly Mexican, and when I 
started going to school there, I found I was the only white American. 
I was also younger than the other children in my class. All in all, I 
felt strongly that I was a member of a minority group. It made a 
listener out of me. I hung around bashfully, listening to what every- 
body else said, and I've been a very careful listener ever since. 

Both my parents always worked, and so did my aunts and uncles. 
We had a fluid household; everyone came and went as he pleased. I'd 
come home from school and find only my grandmother there, cooking 
oyster stew or some other New England dish. I'd go out and hang 
around in the houses of our Mexican neighbors. Poor as they were, 
they had furniture and other possessions that they'd brought from 
Mexico, and I loved the way their homes looked the velvet table 
scarves with hand-painted designs, and all the rest. There was always 
a strong, wonderful aroma of tortillas cooking in oil. I got to like their 
food better than oyster stew. My mother worked at the Platt Music 
Corporation, one of the leading music stores in Los Angeles, which 
carried everything from grand pianos to harmonicas. She was man- 
ager of the phonograph-records department, and was the foremost 
authority on records in town. That was before the day of the disc 
jockey. Every record-company representative or song-plugger who 
came to town would get in touch with my mother. Sometimes she'd 
dress up in a beaded gown and pat me on the head and go off to 
attend a record-company convention at the Cocoanut Grove. A lot of 
important movie people bought records from my mother, and she 
knew their tastes. At home, we had a Victrola one of the early models, 
with the big horn and the picture of a white puppy dog on it. Mother 
was a pianist, and could play just about everything. When I was 
seven, the family bought a second-hand upright piano for me to take 
lessons on. It cost seventy-five dollars, and had supposedly belonged 
to R